Building on history

Spaarndammerhart brings new-build to the heart of Amsterdam 

August 15, 2017

The Spaarndammerhart plan won Heijmans the task of redeveloping wasteland in the middle of the historic Amsterdam School district. The construction work will not get under way until mid-2018, so what will be happening in the meantime?

“First up, we’ll have a slice of cake to celebrate the success!” laughs Commercial Manager Ashley van der Tol. “Then we’ll form a project team, including Design Manager Donny Suik, Developer Hans van der Zant and myself. First of all, we’ll study how we can realize all the assumptions from the tender in practice.”

Design Manager Donny will be seeing to it that the elements from the plan are put into practice. Within Heijmans, he will approach the various disciplines that will be working on the project and harmonize the work. Ultimately he’ll transfer the project to the project team working on the implementation.

Local residents as planners

“Our tender stated that some of the things local residents would get a say in were the colour scheme for the stones, the layout of the street and gardens, and the details of two so-called neighbourhood spaces in the new building’s plinth. And in the art. We set to work on these things as soon as we won the tender”, says Developer Hans.

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The local residents with whom the local authority was already in touch were approached first. This gave rise to four working groups comprising interested local residents, who drew up plans in a variety of sessions. Plans that were ultimately presented to all interested parties in the neighbourhood by representatives of the working groups.”

Project ambassadors

Incidentally, this collaboration was not simply a matter of course. The Spaarndammerbuurt area is a close-knit community with plenty of articulate residents. Hans: “They were in fact averse to having any buildings put up here”. It was not all that long ago that the site, now covered in cow parsley, poppies and evening primrose, was home to the Spaarndammer School. “They loved the greenery. Yet the housing shortage in Amsterdam is so acute that the local authority had no choice but to build there.”

Ashley: “This project will stand or fall on whether or not you manage to include local people in the development process. Allowing them to influence certain decisions and informing them regularly and on time will ensure that residents become your ambassadors. This can only be done if they are genuinely enthusiastic.”

Creative process

The construction costs are also quite a puzzle. Between the permit issuance start of the actual construction work lies a period of nearly eighteen months. During that period the construction costs will rise considerably, particularly the prices of raw materials, due to the favourable economic climate. Hans: “This calls for a great deal of creativity on the part of the project team to ensure that the quality of the end result is of the same high standard as we described in the tender”.

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Reaching future residents is another process. Ashley: “This is a really unique project, involving properties of around 140 to 160m² with gardens, in the centre of Amsterdam. A place where a lot of people would love to live. In conjunction with an advertising agency, we’re developing a campaign for groups interested in this. We’ll be rolling the campaign out after the summer break”.

Typical Heijmans project

Walking with Ashley and Hans through the neighbourhood, they keep pointing out recurring elements in the new area. The Spaarndammerbuurt is full of listed buildings in the Amsterdam School style, including ‘Het Schip’ by architect Michel de Klerk. This architectural style distinguishes itself by means of expressive use of bricks, masonry and figurative façade elements such as turrets.

Hans and Ashley refer to Spaarndammerhart as a typical Heijmans project, because “quality and architecture are primary and because we’re involving the local residents in the project”. Korth Tielens Architecten and Marcel Lok are seeing to it that the new buildings dovetail seamlessly with their surroundings. Artist Martijn Sandberg is designing the gateways to the courtyard and DS Landschapsarchitecten have agreed to do the landscaping.

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Visual of the courtyard

Construction and art go hand in hand

Ashley: “The unique thing, particularly for the area situated within Amsterdam’s ring road, is that we’re building large, nigh on energy-neutral properties here. There will be 22 council homes, as well as 18 mid-priced rental properties and 36 owner-occupier properties, each with its own terrace. In other words, a great mix for lower, mid-range and higher incomes”.

Hans: “Spaarndammerhart constitutes a symbiosis of architecture, art, landscaping and sustainability, referring to the fundamental principles of the Amsterdam School, in which construction and art go hand in hand. We’re now complementing these principles with the elements of greenery and sustainability”.

Stay tuned!

Five unique facts

1. The Spaarndammerbuurt area has earned itself the nickname ‘moord en brandbuurt’ (‘hue and cry district’), due in part to the communist or socialist character of its residents;

2. When it came to winning the tender process, the weighting given to the residents’ voice was one third: one of the ways in which Heijmans won them over was by preserving as many old trees as possible in the plan.

3. Old and new residents will be encouraged to mix due to the plan to have the communal courtyards maintained by the residents themselves;

4. The plan includes the street, like it was until the construction of the Spaarndammerschool in the 1970s, being restored with two new façades.

5. The gateways to the courtyard that Martijn Sandberg is designing will take visitors back or forward in time. Gate 1 to 1917, gate 2 to 2020 (the year of completion) and gate 3 to 3025. The years have been incorporated into the gateways in a specially designed brick alphabet in relief.