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Paul de Ley

14-09-1943

Paul de Ley (1943) is a trailblazer of Dutch urban regeneration. In the early 1970s, he and Jouke van den Bout were involved with a group of activist residents fighting the demolition of homes on Bickerseiland to make way for office blocks.

Even while a student at the Amsterdamse Academie van Bouwkunst (1964-1972) De Ley was active in the emerging democratisation movement and community groups that hotly contest tearing down parts of Amsterdam city centre to make way for urbanisation. At the time, the structuralist ideas of Van Eyck prevail at the academy. De Ley blends the formal influence of Van Eyck with the ‘social-realistic’ approach that focuses on ‘building for the community’. As a promising student, he joins Van Eyck’s firm and, from 1970 onwards, works on plans for the Nieuwmarkt area. However, he soon leaves to pursue his own ideas and, working with fellow student Jouke van den Bout, joins the fight for the preservation of Bickerseiland.

De Ley's Amsterdam Bickerseiland project (1970-1975) is the first urban regeneration project on an urban scale in the Netherlands, and receives international acclaim. In this former harbour area, threatened with demolition and the large-scale construction of offices, an alliance between the residents, activists and architects succeeds in calling a halt to the city-planning process and re-location of inhabitants from the city centre to the surrounding burgeoning dormitory towns of Purmerend and Almere.

After Bickerseiland, De Ley specialises in urban renewal and completes projects including the Oude Schans, the Binnengasthuisterrein and the Zwanenburgwal in Amsterdam and the Witte Dorp in Rotterdam. Besides his practice as an architect, De Ley is an active publicist and tutor. Beginning in the late 1960s, he publishes articles in the general and professional media on small-scale construction, neighbourhood participation and urban regeneration. He also lectures at the Academie van Bouwkunst in Amsterdam and at the Rietveldacademie in Amsterdam.

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