Amsterdam West holds a special place in our hearts. It began with Mercatorplaza on the A10 West ring road. Together with local residents, we achieved the impossible: a spectacular swimming pool on the site where housing was planned. With thanks to Olympic swimming champion Erica Terpstra, who helped us to achieve this!
Subsequently, together with Luc Vrolijks (Urhahn Urban Design) and Guido Wallagh (De Lijn/INBO), we made the workbook Future vision Parkstad: More Park + More City. An outline strategy that, to this day, guides the renewal of 45,000 homes in the Western Garden Cities.
The renewal of the Kolenkit neighbourhood had the highest priority. In 2003, it was the poorest neighbourhood in the Netherlands. Renewal is often at the expense of existing residents, also called ‘gentrification’. Not so in the Kolenkitbuurt, where residents were given a neighbourhood guarantee. If their house was about to be demolished, residents would get an affordable and sustainable alternative within walking distance. And the housing corporations, municipality and WeLoveTheCity have kept their word. The last residents with a neighbourhood guarantee moved into their new homes in 2018.
“Before, this was a ghetto, a terrible word, but it was applicable. Now the houses are nice and there is a much better mix of people. Everyone enjoys living here.”Ruud van Buren, chairman of the residents’ platform Kolenkitbuurt in Parool newspaper (2019)
More than 600 homes have been renovated, 1,000 demolished and 1,850 new homes built. The original urban development structure by Cornelis van Eesteren (1935) lends itself perfectly to a gradual ‘block by block’ approach. This has the advantage that not only the spatial but also the social network remains intact. The architecture builds a bridge between ‘my home’ and ‘our street’. The ‘encroachment’, the transitional area between private and public, challenges residents to reclaim public space from the anonymity of the big city. This succeeds, the Kolenkitters feel safe and are proud to receive guests.