Density and the informal city


Amsterdam would not be itself without its many informal projects, initiatives taken by ‘developers without property’, or the new ‘city makers’ as they are often called. They created urban farms and orchards, a variety of creative and sustainability initiatives and experimental start-ups in makeshift workspaces. These initiatives have been particularly abundant in times of economic decline – first, because the more readily available temporarily derelict land offered active groups a basis for their informal place-making initiatives and second, because of an already existing culture of experimentation that suited the emergence of these breeding grounds for innovation. Novel formal-informal governance arrangements have also emerged in association with these initiatives.

Recently, with returning economic optimism, the public spaces where these initiatives materialized, have come under pressure. As a result, some initiatives have moved elsewhere, whilst others have shown to be more tied to the land that they appropriated and face uncertain futures. In parallel to this transition, now that the housing market is at its return and booming, the municipality of Amsterdam is looking for ways to determine where and how densification is possible, to realize additional housing in the city (50.000 before 2021). As a first exercise, the municipality has done this in a top-down manner, but is now looking into alternative, more inclusionary ways to assess the capacity of the city to densify. On the thematic route, participants explore and debate these opposite movements, examine the tensions and jointly develop ways to address them.

Key questions to be addressed on this route

  1. What forms of informality initiatives do we see in public space in Amsterdam and what are their prospects in view of potential densification?
  2. What examples from elsewhere are potentially insightful for Amsterdam people to tackle the tensions?

Nodes on the route – for the time being

– Nieuwe West/ Landtong nieuwe meer

– Tuinen van West

– Buiksloterham (de Ceuvel, NDSM)

– K-Buurt Bijlmer (Msc Atelier project link)