Last Thursday July 14, Alex van Beld (Onix) lectured in a very intimate setting at ARCAM. Van de Beld talked about his ideas on 'Social Sustainability' on the basis of such projects as the housing complex at Staalmanplein in Amsterdam and an impressive wooden bridge over the motorway A7 in Sneek.

Alex van de Beld is founder of Onix, an architecture firm that he and his partner Haiko Meijer run together. The office consists of offices in Groningen and Helsingborg (Sweden). Onix is famous for its investigative and innovative way of working, its craftsmanship and the use of sustainable materials under the heading "Low Tech". Over the years the office has developed extensive knowledge of wood and wood-built systems.

Housing complex Staalmanplein, Amsterdam

Private House Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

For Alex van de Beld sustainability has a lot to do with simply respecting the environment and nature, integrating the new build in the context and respecting what is already there. He talks about a humble architecture almost effacing itself. An architecture that opens up to nature. Doing “More with less”.
Sustainability, according to Van de Beld, is also specifically designing for the user, dealing in a clever and efficient way with the floor plan. The private house in Leeuwarden shows how nature and home merge almost seamlessly into one another and together provide a platform for children playing in the neighborhood: providing a meeting place for the collective.
Making architecture, according to Van de Beld is always about the experiment, pushing your own limits.

Bridge Sneek, The Netherlands

Housing Stavanger, Sweden

During the lecture Van de Beld increasingly showed work that is about actively promoting encounters, an architecture that provides a platform for the collective revealing in a wonderful way what his work is really about.
After the lecture there was lots of time to meet the architect and talk in an informal way on his work. We hope to have more lectures like this at ARCAM in the future.

This week, Friday July 22, Florian Idenburg (SO-IL) will lecture at ARCAM. Please subscribe via our website.

Marlies Buurman



Last Tuesday (July 5th) the symposium 'Planning the future of Amsterdam & New York' took place at ARCAM. Thanks to the great contributions by David Bragdon (director, NYC's Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability) and Zef Hemel (deputy director at the Spatial Planning Department of Amsterdam) we learned that the Amsterdam approach has some great advantages concerning the 'openness' of the plan, and that the New York approach is more than a 'to do list'

Zef Hemel and David Bragdon

Tracy Metz successfully moderated the discussion

David Bragdon presented what in New York is known as ‘PlaNYC 2030 - A Greener, Greater New York’. The plan was launched in 2007 by Mayor Bloomberg and has been recently updated. Bragdon presented the plan as a ‘to do list’ of the municipal government. The updated plan has 132 initiatives and 400 milestones. The initiatives are extremely practical in nature and focused on the things the government can directly affect. For example the city started a bike-sharing program based on the French model, she builds up public parks to playgrounds, and destines areas near public transportation for high density housing. One of the new measures is that the dirtiest types of fuel oil will be phased out in a number of steps.

The presentation of Zef Hemel, had a different tone. He talked about an 'open process': all citizens of Amsterdam took part in a decentralized way in the dialogue on the future of the city. Hemel introduced the term ‘Wikicity’ for the manner in which the collective intelligence of the people of Amsterdam helped shape the framework for the future expansion. The government is not the one who knows best what is good, but she listens to the residents and composed on the basis of the story of the city.

The discussion centered around the difference in character of both plans and their presentation: a 'to-do' list versus 'wikicity'. And while the difference between both plans may be less big than their presentation suggested, the Amsterdam audience seemed very interested in a concrete implementation agenda for Amsterdam modeled after the New York approach.

During the break...

During the afternoon the Glimpses of the future - designed by architecture firms from both cities - were discussed. Five experts responded to the work on show in the exhibition. The ten architecture and landscape architecture firms, together with the audience took part in the discussion afterwards.

Henk Ovink responded to the Glimpse 'Making', designed by Barcode and So-Il.

Caro van der Venne (Barcode) stressed that in the future working and knowledge will be intertwined and that excellence is to be cultivated, for example in their vision for a 'tip of the iceberg' excellence center near Schiphol airport.

Ton Venhoeven responded to the Glimpse 'Moving' by .Fabric and DLANDSTUDIO.
Susannah Drake (dlandstudio) explains her ideas on a Hybrid Urban Base, a new intermodal civic and transportation center situated on e intertidal canal near Hunter's Point, Queens.

Dirk Sijmons responded to the 'Breathing' Glimpse, by Delva & Dingeman Deijs and W Architecture. Dirk commented on the end of the 'age of fossil fuel expressionism' and suggested that accommodating the production of energy is one of the 'up and coming' challenges of urban and landscape design.

Steven Delva explains how he re-imagines the IJ estuary as an energy producing archipelago and creating a place for living and recreation in the heart of Amsterdam.

Maike van Stiphout calculated the costs of private gardening and questions the possibilities of local food production on a large scale in the 'Breathing' Glimpse by Van Bergen Kolpa and WORKac.

Jago van Bergen (Van Bergen Kolpa) elaborates on his vision for a regional perspective and sketches opportunities for the production of a diversity of agricultural crops in the green wedges of Amsterdam.

Rudy Uytenhaak on the visions for Dwelling. He compares the dwelling to a bird's nest and suggests that the city is to provide the resource base for the city dweller.

Daniel d'Ocra (Interboro) and Tjeerd Haccou (Space&Matter) explain their visions for high-density housing in relation to of collective private commissioning and the improvement of dwelling opportunities for everyone in Newark.

The exchange of knowledge on the sustainable future of Amsterdam and New York will continue this summer. Please keep up to date via ARCAM for more programs to follow. Also check the website for more information on the Glimpses and the exhibitions at ARCAM and Center for Architecture New York: ARCAM

Luc Vrolijks & Marlies Buurman

Photo's: Maaike Behm (ARCAM)



The last Glimpse into the future of this week is 'Dwelling'. Below we show two visions by young architecture firms for locations in Amsterdam and New York. Tuesday July 5 we will discuss the theme of housing in the future during the symposium 'Planning the future of Amsterdam and New York' at ARCAM, together with the other 'glimpse'-themes of our exhibition 'Glimpses': Eating, Breathing, Making and Moving.

Andreas Ensemble in Slotervaart, Amsterdam
The future of 'Dwelling' has led the Amsterdam team Space&Matter looking at new forms of high-density housing in the Slotervaart area in Amsterdam. The young firm sees a trend in which groups of prospective buyers work with developers and the city to realize their collective dreams, resulting in a repetition of large housing blocks, 'islands of similarity'. After a period of 'I' Space&Matter believes we are heading towards a time were the 'we' is very strong.
They have designed housing blocks around a collective interest or theme. The plinth houses functions and amenities in relation to this theme, initiated by the building group. Could this stimulate social cohesion on different levels?

Newark in New York
Interboro in New York analyzes the Broad Street corridor in Newark and concludes that many of the past glimpses of the future by great city thinkers miserably failed in Newark. They speculate how the enormous connectivity of that area should enable a whole range of attractive dwelling qualities. Their glimpse is about equal housing opportunities.


Detail with quotes by famous city planners and thinkers like Richard Florida and Ebenezer Howard

Both teams have made with their glimpse a statement on future living in the city, both visions are about social sustainability. They show us that still a lot of questions need to be answered; how can we make more connective cities, better mixtures, how can we design a fluent transition between the 'We' and the 'They' and how can we stimulate a community giving something back to the surroundings, and how can we create a real collective space?

More debate on housing in the future and the Glimpses during the symposium 'Planning the future of Amsterdam & New York' at ARCAM on July 5th, 2011. See for more information and subscription: ARCAM.

Marlies Buurman


MOVING – by dlandstudio and .FABRIC

The way in which people are ‘Moving’ through the city will continue to evolve, according to both teams addressing this issue within the framework of “Glimpses of New York and Amsterdam in 2040”. The advantages will be technological, with new types of fuel, new engines and renewable sources. But their proposals look beyond technological innovation. For dlandstudio, the future is determined in part by the rise of sea levels, and the challenges that brings to the city of New York. And .Fabric’s key position is that the advantages of the transportation of the last half century have essentially turned the orientation of the city a 180 degrees. Its traditional orientation toward the IJ waterfront is replaced by a focus on the South Axis and its international connectivity.

The glimpse by dlandstudio turns out to be the most ‘urbanistic project’ of the ten glimpses. The team notes that the water edge at Hunters Point, Queens will be inundated in 40 years. This creates the opportunity to utilize an intertidal canal to create inland ferry access. That makes it possible to propose a new intermodal civic and transport center that synthetically integrates ferry, bus, train, automobile, bicycle and pedestrian circulation. The glimpse image shows the new transportation hub. All of the transportation ‘loose ends’ of Hunters point will be integrated into one transportation hub – the HUB, or Hybrid Urban Base.

Fabric’s glimpse shows how Amsterdam’s South Axis is set to become the place where the local and the global connect. The team’s glimpse turns the classical perspective on Amsterdam –from the IJ waterfront, from the North- to what it sees as the new ‘front door’ of the city, from the South, with the South Axis as its international entry point. Fabric introduces the term ‘transportation footprint’. In order to keep the transportation footprint of the Amsterdam residents at bay, Fabric suggests that the city will have to mix and intensify to make transportation footprints sustainable. The result is an intensification of the South Axis, with more scope for residents, and a more intense mix of working, living and playing. Fabric suggest that the transportation of the future will be more intelligent, with collision-self-avoiding capacity, non-polluting engines, and more individual in character, allowing for seamless shift between modes. This allows the team to imagine the public space of the South Axis as an open, park-like space with free moving individual vehicles in a lush, green setting.

Both glimpses combined raise key questions on the future of transportation. Will individual or collective modes transport become dominant? And how will the transition between modes of transport be facilitated. Will technology drive the innovation, or are we simply making biking easier. And what level of development intensity and urban mix the Hybrid Urban Bases of the future can support.

These are questions that have intrigued Ton Venhoeven for a long time. In his current role as government advisor on infrastructure, Ton is advising the government on how to develop intense urban nodes. For that perspective he will reflect on the two “Moving” glimpses. Suzannah Drake of dlandstudio and Eric Frijters of Fabric will join Ton Venhoeven for a discussion.

This will take place as part of the symposium 'Planning the future of Amsterdam & New York' at ARCAM on July 5th, 2011.

See for more information and subscription: ARCAM

Luc Vrolijks


Next week, Tuesday July 5th, the symposium 'Planning the future of Amsterdam & New York' will be organized at ARCAM. Five basic life-themes will be discussed: Breathing, Eating, Making, Moving and Dwelling. This week we will address all themes in this blog. Today we will focus on what both 'Breathing' teams in Amsterdam and New York have designed for the exhibition 'Glimpses' now at show at the Center for Architecture NY and ARCAM.

Delva Landscape Architects was asked to make a vision for the IJ estuary in the heart of Amsterdam, while W Architecture in New York was challenged to design the future of leisure on the Hudson.

New Amsterdam in Amsterdam
The vision of Delva with Dingeman Deijs re-imagines the IJ estuary in the heart of Amsterdam as an archipelago. The historic borders of the historic Northern IJ dikes are re-created to allow an innovative water-energy-production-landscape to emerge. Shipping is re-routed to create a central place for the city - a place for living, recreation and energy generation at the center of Amsterdam. The team has been advised by Deltares, a leading innovator in enabling delta life.

Dredgescape in New York
W Architecture has shaped a new recreational place on the Hudson with increased access to the water's edge on Manhattan's Westside, and facilities for boating and learning. Using dredge from the port, W Architecture imagines a series of archipelagos to soften the urbanized Hudson providing launches and landings as well as a habitat for animals and educational experiences along the Hudson. The island groups will be located with respect to edge and bottom conditions, and at appropriate intervals to allow for various experience levels of human powered investigation.

Using dredge materials, W Architecture proposes to create new 'archipelagos' to create a system for refuge and exploration along the Hudson estuary. This system will allow for increased water access by human powered boats, allowing people to experience their enriched local ecology.

The access points for this system will create 'Marine Streets'- places where the urban landscape breaks and eases into more wild one. The Marine Streets mitigate the boundaries between water and land offering increased resistance to sudden storm surges and improved stormwater management.

Both 'Breathing' teams have taken the water base as a starting point for their Glimpse of the future and both teams share a respect for existing ecological systems and reinforce the relation between the people and the waterfronts. Both plans show how recreation and energy generation can be combined within our cities.

Symposium on the Future
During the Symposium 'Planning the future of Amsterdam and New York' Dirk Sijmons (Director H+N+S Landschapsarchitecten and former Chief Government Advisor on the Landscape) will reflect on both Glimpses of the future.
See ARCAM for more information on the Symposium at July 5th.

Marlies Buurman (ARCAM)