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Der Spiegel: Amsterdam cool city after all

21 August 2007 - Amsterdam is one of Europe’s five cities that are most successful at attracting the ‘creative class’ and most advanced in their transfer to a knowledge economy, writes Der Spiegel.

Three weeks ago, the magazine featured an article suggesting that Amsterdam’s tolerance has reached its limits. The murder of film-maker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim radical would have “marked a turning point in Holland’s fuzzy take on democracy”.

The magazine portrayed Slotervaart district chairman Ahmed Marcouch - the ‘Sheriff of Little Morocco’ - as an example of a tougher approach of ethnic minority youth.

However, this week, der Spiegel quotes Professor Sako Musterd, who says that the impact of the Van Gogh murder has been exaggerated. “The ability to integrate is stronger than people think, and the same applies to the creative power of multiculturalism”.

Musterd is quoted as an expert on Amsterdam’s creative class - if not as a member: he is said to dress conservatively and “the computer he is just using is one of those ugly PCs that even the interns in a design studio would not be burdened with”.

Yet this computer does produce detailed maps showing how many artists, foreigners, fringe groups and gay couples live in a neighbourhood. The creative class lives mainly in the Eastern and Western Docklands, and the share of foreign-born people in Amsterdam’s population is only surpassed by Dubai and Miami.

The article in der Spiegel was prompted by a study commissioned by the city of Hamburg from the Roland Berger consultancy. Hamburg wanted to know which European cities can serve as an example if it regards attracting the creative class and making the transfer to a knowledge economy.

The consultancy came up with Copenhagen, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Dublin and Vienna. Amsterdam “has long been considered a tolerant and open city that is very good at reinventing itself from time to time”.

It is no coincidence that the study stays clear of the really large mega cities (‘forget London and Paris!’). According to der Spiegel, the somewhat smaller ‘second cities’ are the cities of the future. It quotes an OECD official who says that the productivity of cities drops once they become too large.

Illustration: Java Eiland, Eastern Docklands (Photo Wikipedia). Der Spiegel on Marcouch, cool cities


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