Alternative approach

Seen in Amsterdam Southeast on 4 June 2015:

Bas Hissink Muller, San Verschuuren and me are running a studio for some forty students in urban planning of the University of Amsterdam in Amsterdam Bijlmermeer. We’re practicing platformization in this Modernist neighborhood dating from the seventies. A month long we’re staying in an empty office building on the Amstel III estate. So no university campus site this time. The building – 30.000 m2 – was owned by a German investor. It was a fraud. So the investor went bankrupt, the bank took over. Expensive building on the wrong spot. Royal Bank of Scottland left the building some five years ago. Since then it has no tenants. They think it could become an incubator for startups in life sciences. Not a bad idea. Next to the plot is one of the biggest academic hospitals of Europe – the AMC. Ten minutes from the airport. Fifteen minutes from city centre by metro. This month we and the students are staying in the abandoned restaurant on its first floor. For free. Strange place.

What we learn? Some 23 percent of all the office space in Amsterdam southeast is standing empty now. That’s about a million square meters. (Hey, thirty buildings like the one we’re staying in). Can you imagine? One group of students is researching it. Is it hopeless? It depends on the location, it seems. Other teams are working on students housing, reuse of a big green park dating from the eighties, sustainable waste management, safety issues, (lack of) orientation, future functionality of a new overpass (oh no, not another park!), strategies for densification, etcetera. The students interview people in the streets. They also meet civil servants. One of them told us about the problems with the zoning plans. They were made flexible in the financial crisis in order to keep things going. Now that the pressure is back no investor can be refused because of its flexibility. It’s difficult to secure the spatial quality now. Other problems stemmed from lack of participation. They also gave examples of questionable privatisation of public space. It were all problems generated by the planning procedures. Would the students notice? Will they understand that the alternative is platformization?





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