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Urban Design Plan to Revivify the Nieuwmarkt

Client: Gemeente Amsterdam

Designers: Theo Bosch, Aldo van Eyck and Paul de Ley

In 1980, Amsterdam city council adopts the definitive design for the city’s Nieuwmarkt area; however, the proposed plans are not the result of the traditional planning processes but the fruits of ten years of tussles after which the council ultimately accepts the ideas of the architectural office of Van Eyck and Bosch, supported by local residents, to reinstate the old street layout.

Despite the commotion engendered by the projected redevelopment, the structure of the area barely changes. The revision of the 1970 Rebuilding Plan, which combines the efforts of Van Eyck, Bosch, Knemeijer and De Ley, secures the approval of various interest groups including the Amsterdamse Raad voor de Stedebouw. Consequently, the council asks Van Eyck’s bureau to continue its involvement in designing the plans. In 1972, when the city council manages to overrule plans for building a motorway by just one vote, the municipality prepares a new proposal for the area. Van Eyck and Bosch work independently to develop an alternative plan for the neighbourhood.

In 1974 the Van Eyck and Bosch firm of architects is appointed project architect for the area. In this capacity, they supervise the urban cohesion of all plans for the neighbourhood, working in tandem with the Urban Development department of the municipality. Van Eyck and Bosch ‘hand back’ this responsibility to the council several times, saying that the council is being vague about plans for the metro and using this to sneak in the motorway that had originally been planned.

Theo Bosch ultimately shoulders many of the tasks involved in overseeing the project. In coming down firmly on the side of the local residents, Bosch becomes an extremely popular figure and gives him considerable leverage with the council, making it impossible for them to doing anything without consulting Bosch. 

In 1975, plans for extending the metro (to Central Station) are finalised, necessitating the demolition of most of the local area. A long summer of discontent seems to be inevitable, with locals up in arms about losing their homes. But the skirmishes last just a day. The architectural office of Van Eyck and Bosch sides with the residents and finances the construction of a bridge that forms a strategic point in the confrontation. Van Eyck and Bosch are not fighting ‘against’ the metro, which is unavoidable, but ‘for’ the preservation of the Nieuwmarkt as residential neighbourhood, in accordance with the original zoning plans. After 1975, the council begins to change its tune and in favour of Van Eyck and Bosch’s regeneration plan. However, the plan will not be officially approved until 1980, when the Nieuwmarkt will finally be designated a residential area.

Bosch acts as mediator, dealing with all the parties involved in the Design Teams (represented by architects, residents and civil servants), and supervising architectural quality. During the redevelopment process, a distinction is drawn between a reconstruction area (which corresponds with the metro line) and a rehabilitation area (the urban renewal zone). Initially, Van Eyck and Bosch are only assigned projects in the rehabilitation zone, but this changes as Bosch gains more influence over the project. The architectural office of Van Eyck and Bosch is assigned a total of nine projects in the neighbourhood.

With the diversity of its inhabitants and wealth of architectural variety, the Nieuwmarkt is transformed into a colourful area about which Theo Bosch says the following in 1990: ‘it could have been toned down a little.’


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