In the middle of Amsterdam, close to the heart of the city, the Southern banks of the IJ (pronounced ‘Eye’) are being redeveloped from an harbor-related industrial area to a contemporary conglomeration in close relationship with the existing city center.
Supervising that transformation is predominantly a joy. The area is magnificent, the outlined plan is lucid, the process is complex and the people are inspiring to work with.
History permeates the area. A rich and glorious past is made visible in the Museum of Naval History. Solid warehouses tell of a more recent period of trains and boats and cranes. This is Amsterdam: waiting to be redeveloped, now that harbor activities gradually have moved to the West. Existing activities that have outgrown their midtown site can be relocated here. Brand new urban developments find a place as well. Waterfront lofts and apartments add life and enjoy a spectacular view.
The grand strategy is to enhance two main existing qualities: spatial configuration and inherent character.
Spatially the area consists of five artificial islands, linked by railroad tracks. Each one is to be developed in a unique way, taking advantage of available features and specific aspects of the program to be realized.
The ‘no nonsense’ character that remains from bustling harbor days, is respected and inspires the design of open public space. Open space comes first and is predominant, supported by urban and architectural planning. This way, a whole is created that is more than the sum of its parts.
Urban development takes long and knows many participants with different interests. A clear concept bridges the years and brings divergent ideas together. There is time to allow previous decisions to influence each other and adjust to the situation they have to serve. Time creates breathing space for balanced growth, the only way to build cities.
Supervising means coaching a creative process, leaving room for improvisation and improvement, only intervening when the core concept is threatened. It is investing trust in people who are motivated to contribute their part in designing, facilitating and constructing a new urban environment.
City of Amsterdam
Emilio Troncoso Larrain
Michael van Gessel