Ronald Rietveld ARCAM lecture – “People go to Berlin because they think there’s all that free space there, while there is more than plenty here in Amsterdam.”

Alexander and I attended the ARCAM lecture tonight where landscape architect Ronald Rietveld (Rietveld Landscape) sketched a future for Amsterdam that isn’t dormant and touristic, but somewhat ambitious even.

These are the rough notes from the presentation1:

Going to explain his fascinations by way of his work.

Starts with Amsterdam party scene and scenes from the RoXY. Amsterdam used to be very dynamic in the early 90s.

Fascinated by the underground. Also did an exploration of the meatpacker district of NYC. Holes in the urban fabric allow for dynamism to arise.

Freestate Amsterdam project for the Rotterdam biennale to see about a different way to think about urban planning in the West Port of Amsterdam. It’s a massive port that is mostly unknown and unloved.

The importance of fertile ground for the creative city. In the 80s city center was the freestate of Amsterdam. Roxy became an exponent of the House Revolution and a focal point of the creative industry.

Roxy’s produce:

  • Decor
  • DJ and VJ as export products
  • Graphic design
  • Gay-parade/capital
  • Amsterdam Dance Event
  • Inspiration

His isn’t the city as defined by top down city marketing but by bottom up creation.

After that the IJ shores became the new freestate. With the following progression:

  1. Old industry
  2. Emptiness
  3. Recolonization by festivals
  4. Metropolitan connection
  5. Trendies start to arrive (MTV)
  6. Urbanists and architects arrive

There is now a collective feeling that there isn’t space anymore in Amsterdam to execute creative ideas.

Stubnitz: the boat of the hundred subcultures where different people meet each other (and that has been closed down by the city)

Pluk de Nacht: empty plot of land, 20000 people in 10 days2

Amsterdam should notice and cherish it’s talent instead of running it out of town.

Shouldn’t a city that wants to become a creative capital have a different approach to city planning?

West port has a bunch of environmental advantages:

  • Free sound
  • Free height
  • No Stadsdeel
  • Lots of free space
  • High diversity of terrains that are temporarily empty

Houtveemloods near Westerpark
Used to be a public swimming area in 1954
Proposals to move abandoned oil rigs from the North Sea to behind westerpark (massively high structures). They are waiting to be repaired in the Waddenzee and costing money.

New Amsterdam Park

Another island was planned near java eiland. A park was necessary.

Focus on different subcultures instead of ethnicity. Shared interests. Try to look for the tension between the subcultures.

Social affordances, the affordances an environment offers for social interaction. (Thesis by his brother.)

Moor a bunch of barges (duwbakken) there with a every barge hosting a different taste/vibe/culture module of the park. Every container is connected with each other. Temporary park.

Another inspiration is: trip through emptiness

Road trip through the flyover states and national parks of the USA

Same phenomena can be applied to the port of Rotterdam. Removed shame green to emphasize the emptiness of the landscape and the activities of the port. Add a flyover highway also to make the port more visible.

Recognize the existing qualities of a place and try to add to those without detrimenting from the original experience.

Asfalt dune where you can drive out onto the sea but in fact do not.

Nice datavisualization of the drive trail of how freely people use the road to go to the Maasmond.

Bunker 599
Cut a bunker in half to make the inside experiencable.

Vacant NL
Dutch biennale pavilion

Empty public buildings. Not the empty office buildings. The period between emptiness and repurposing. The time it takes our policy makers to talk about plans. Combined with the knowledge and innovation agenda of the Netherlands to be in the top-5 of the world.

Why these buildings?

  • Old stuff inspires new ideas
  • Unique affordances for use
  • Less rules present
  • Affordable space for talent

Show affordances for reusing the empty buildings temporally in a creative economic context. It seems that Groningen is already quite far ahead with this compared to the Rim City area.

Blood sweat and tears to get the entire thing up and running.

There is enough creative potential to fill this up. People move to Berlin because they think there’s space and opportunity there while there could be more than enough of both in the Netherlands.

There’s a ton of architectural experience in the room that is very skeptical of temporary reuse, Dutch civil servants’ risk avoidance and slow moving government processes.

In the Netherlands people start inventarizing what could go wrong and nobody wants to take responsibility.

Update: Streamlined a bit more and added links.

  1. They will be revised a bit further and I’ll add my comments tomorrow.
  2. Some old dude was really negative about Pluk de Nacht, but I think everybody I know that went was totally positive about the festival.

One thought on “Ronald Rietveld ARCAM lecture – “People go to Berlin because they think there’s all that free space there, while there is more than plenty here in Amsterdam.””

  1. Actually upon further thought I think the comparison with Berlin goes completely off the wall because of a topic that was only skirted upon in Rietveld’s talk: housing (Rietveld is a landscape architect after all…).

    In Amsterdam currently there are no houses to be had under €700 and no rooms under €500 (not practically and outside of the social housing system, which is also a nonstarter). Berlin is built on such a large surface area that it can absorb a large influx of people and it has large swaths of outdated housing that is rapidly being gentrified by creative classes and other young people moving in.

    Amsterdam may want to attract a large amount of creative people, it has absolutely no place to put them without adding to the already rampant inflation of house prices within the A10.
    – Tie together the Amsterdam intra-A10 and ex-A10 with better transit, better facilities outside, better everything really.
    – Consider Amsterdam a moot point and work on integrating the entire Randstad into a larger multi borough city surface comparable to New York. Living in Rotterdam and working in Amsterdam should be a lot easier than it currently is.

    Also Sarrazin may have thought that he was dissing Turkish people when he said they were a supplier of cheap fruit and vegetables, but another area where Berlin has a major leg up on Amsterdam is an abundant supply of high quality cheap food. Creative classes need good cheap food, not the poorly concepted faux-posh dinner joints we have here.

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