24 June 2006 – Many bystanders look
surprised when all of a sudden, a coach rides through their neighbourhood.
Also, the coach is far too large for the streets that we are riding
through. “Busses never go through here”, the bus driver
says after having made a turn with great effort. “If the public
transport company had a route through here, that obstacle would
have been removed long ago”.
This weekend is Nieuw West weekend. The Nieuw West part of town
is being celebrated with bustours, an exhibition, a bicycle map
and other activities. The Parkstad Office, responsible for the urban
renewal operation in Nieuw West, wants to do away with the negative
The Western Garden Cities were planned in 1934, when Cornelis van
Eesteren drew up the General Expansion Plan. This plan is characterised
by open rows of houses, with extensive green areas in between. The
plan was not executed until after the Second World War.
By then, there was a shortage of houses, while building materials
and labour were scarce. In order to be able to build fast, quality
was compromised. As a result, the area now needs substantial improvement,
we are told. Currently, one of the most extensive urban renewal
operations in Europe is being carried out here.
We hear that former prime minister Wim Kok, who lives in the neighbourhood,
likes to take walks around the Sloterplas lake. A new path is constructed,
hopefully resulting in more walkers, joggers, skaters and cyclists
taking this route. Perhaps this will also attract other facilities.
In this way, it is hoped that the area will become safer.
At the Sierplein, the perceived safety has been improved by installing
cameras. However, the greates problem in the eyes of the residents
were the pigeons. This problem has been solved with the help of
An important characteristic of Nieuw West is the A10 city ring.
The connection with the harbour, Schiphol Airport and the Zuidas
provides the area with economic opportunities. On the other hand,
the city ring is also a barrier, which cuts off much of Amsterdam
West from the rest of the city.
In a number of ways, it is tried to overcome this barrier. At the
Delflandplein for example, a shopping arcade will be built underneath
the A10. At the Bos en Lommerplein on the other hand, it was decided
to build above the motorway.
“Now you can walk from one side of the Bos en Lommerweg to
the other with no problem”, says the guide on the bus. Readers
of News from Amsterdam know of course that it is not that simple,
because one has to wait endlessly at the traffic
lights at the slip roads of the A10.
The essence of the urban renewal in Nieuw West is building and
demolition. No less than thirteen thousand houses will be taken
down, to be replaced with twentyfour thousand, mostly more expensive,
new ones. The share of affordable houses will be brought down substantially.
In this way, it is hoped to stop the deterioration of neighbourhoods.
In a recent book, Helma Hellinga expresses severe doubts about
the renewal operation. The houses were of a quite decent quality,
and the residents had no complaints. Apparently, other interests
were at stake. The current residents have to make room for new residents
and companies that pay more.
Hellinga was joined in her criticism by the Amsterdam Urban Renewal
Council. The new city government has announced that it will see
whether it is possible to lower the number of houses to be demolished
and to renovate them instead.
However, during the Nieuw West weekend, the focus is on the positive
story. In the Zuiderkerk, an exhibition has been opened, at which
the housing corporations try to sell their new projects by use of
maquettes and brochures. Fortunatly, PR is less prominent during
the bus tour. In an hour and a half, you get a fascinating idea
of what is going on in West.
Office frequently organises bus tours and other activities. Exhibition
in the Zuiderkerk.
Helma Hellinga’s book Onrust in Park en Stad: Stedelijke
vernieuwing in de Amsterdamse Westelijke Tuinsteden was published
by Het Spinhuis, ISBN 9055892521 (in Dutch).
Briefing behind the Bos en Lommerplein
Construction is going on everywhere
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