On day 71 we got up at an ungodly hour an caught a surprisingly packed and very reliable bus to the train station to head to Amsterdam. We had a stopover in Hamburg where we loaded up on the last of the fresh German pretzels of our trip. Then we bussed it to Amsterdam through Bremen and Groningen. We were again lucky to have some awesome hosts through a contact of Darren. Cornelia and David were very welcoming and offered excellent insights into the city and the Dutch psyche.
The next day Cornelia took us on a very thorough tour of all things Amsterdam (ok not all, but close) with many points of interest for the urbanist and the architect. We rented bikes and started our tour. Cornelia was keen to prove that Amsterdam was the best (but more importantly better than Copenhagen) in terms of cycling and public spaces.
The Dutch have a policy of building amenities and transportation connections before new housing developments, opposite to the North American model where there will be new developments without even sidewalks. We saw one example where the library was an anchor for new development. In all public buildings such as this, there are areas to enjoy without paying, inclusive of all income levels. It’s rare to be up seven stories in Amsterdam, so the top of the library offered a great view.
We visited the Pakhuis de Zwijger, a former storage facility, that’s now used for urban programming and city conversations. Cornelia explained the Dutch concept of poldering. Poldering is the process of building dykes and canals to manage the water. It evolved to mean putting your differences aside and working together to accomplish what needed to get done. In this way, the Dutch pride themselves on being able to have conversations about about various topics, while still keeping the bigger picture in mind.
From there we headed to a few of the newer islands. In the 90’s there was a trend of just building more space rather than in-filling. The first island – Java Island, which was divided into 5 parts, each by a different architect. The buildings were interesting, but it lacked mixed use and the vibrancy that goes with it.
Borneo-Sporenburg are two other man-made islands with housing projects. There was a row of canal houses, all different modern designs, higher density towers and a cool bridge connecting the two islands. There is a high percentage of social housing for all developments in the city, but despite this, there is still a 15 year wait.
We stopped for a break at a pub in a windmill. How wonderfully cliche! Good beer, good cheese, good sun, what more could you ask for?
We visited two car free neighbourhoods. One was a new build, each building with a different design, all connected by a meandering path. The second, GWL Terrain, is on land owned by the water company. This one had a guest house that could be rented out.
The Dutch are really excited to transform old buildings into new uses, and they have no qualms about having an interesting and unlikely mix of programs next to each other. For example, one existing tower (the former Shell headquarters) is turning into a club, hostel, offices, concert area, etc. Another area we visited was a former warehouse with great arts program which is about to shut down for a stroller company to move in. The restaurant next door was also a cool place to hang out.
Again with the reuse, we visited a Westerpark, that was formerly used for power generation. The old gas storage tank is now the locale for the best electronic parties. Here we found one of the smaller I Amsterdam signs. These ones move around to different areas every month or so.
We also visited a converted tram storage facility that now houses a number of creative business and a food hall. Next was the street market, which is there every day of the week.
A few other photos from biking around:
We headed back to the apartment to prep for a picnic, the out to Vondel park to enjoy the sun, then to a neighbourhood bar.