Een campus voor de UvA

On 11 februari 2016, in onderwijs, stedenbouw, by Zef Hemel

Gehoord van Max van den Berg op 30 november 2015:

We spraken over campusvorming in de stad. De Universiteit van Amsterdam, zei Max van den Berg, is een maatschappelijk universiteit, met smaakmakers in de alfawetenschappen. Toen in 1967 professor Enschede een nieuwe campus wilde bouwen in het geplande Almere paste dat in het toenmalige denken over een binnenstad vol kantoren en banken en een universiteit ver buiten de stad, maar daarin maakte Enschede een geweldige vergissing. Als gemeentelijk planoloog begreep Van den Berg ook toen al dat een universiteit in de binnenstad thuishoort. Hoogleraren en studenten zijn onderdeel van het grootstedelijke institutionele complex dat hecht is verankerd in historische binnensteden. Utrecht beging de grote fout door in de weilanden een Uithof te bouwen, in plaats van een campus bij het Centraal Station. Twente, Eindhoven en Rotterdam maakten diezelfde fout. Dat moest Amsterdam beslist niet doen. Gelukkig rees er verzet in de alfa-faculteiten. Rector-magnificus Belinfante kreeg het zwaar te verduren. Het Maagdenhuis werd in 1969 bezet. Maar beta wilde wèl naar buiten. Daarom kocht de UvA grond op het Roeterseiland. Verplaatsing van het ziekenhuis uit de binnenstad bleef  nog lang omstreden.

Bij Publieke Werken van de gemeente hadden ze een campus in de oostelijke binnenstad getekend, vlak naast het IJtunneltracé.  Maar in alle consternatie besloot het college van bestuur van de UvA dit niet te doen. In plaats daarvan kocht ze overal in de Amsterdamse binnenstad lukraak panden op, waar ze vervolgens collegezalen in propte. Het Maupoleum van Caransa, ooit bedoeld voor textielgroothandels die uit de Anthoniebreestraat moesten vertrekken, was de allergrootste. Van den Berg vond het allemaal maar niets. Voor een campus viel veel te zeggen, maar de universiteit ging er niet op in. Pas veel later besloot ze alsnog een viertal campussen te ontwikkelen, waarvan een in de binnenstad, voor de alfa-faculteit. Als het aan Van den Berg had gelegen waren alle faculteiten dicht bij de IJtunnel gebouwd geweest, al zeker veertig jaar eerder. Vooruitzien grenst aan tragisch. Van den Berg, die van 1963 tot 1986 planoloog was bij de gemeente Amsterdam, overleed op 3 februari 2016. Zijn memoires zullen later dit jaar bij uitgeverij Thoth verschijnen.

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Max van den Berg, 1938-2016

On 8 februari 2016, in stedenbouw, by Zef Hemel

Vorige week overleed Max van den Berg, stedenbouwkundige, 77 jaar oud. Vanaf zijn afstuderen aan de Technische Hogeschool Delft in 1963 tot aan zijn afscheid in 1985 was hij planoloog in dienst bij de afdeling Stadsontwikkeling van Publieke Werken van de gemeente Amsterdam. Die meer dan twintig jaar waren achteraf de heftigste uit de moderne stedenbouwkundige geschiedenis van de hoofdstad. Max maakte ze als ambtenaar mee. Aanvankelijk wilde het Amsterdamse gemeentebestuur een volledige reconstructie van de bestaande stad, die na de crisis van de jaren dertig en de Tweede Wereldoorlog compleet was uitgewoond. De naoorlogse geboortegolf vroeg om frisse nieuwe woningen; Nieuw-West en Noord werden haastig uit de grond gestampt, later gevolgd door Buitenveldert en de Bijlmer. Voor de binnenstad leken kantoren de toekomst, bereikbaarheid vroeg om snelwegen voor auto’s en ook een heuse metro. De negentiende eeuwse wijken zouden netjes worden afgebroken. Er was weinig geld, maar de ambitie was gigantisch. Vanuit het pas opgeleverde Wibauthuis maakten Max en zijn collega’s de plannen.

Toen kwam de omslag. Eerst was er Provo, daarna de studenten, nog weer later de krakers. Actievoerende monumentenzorgers als Geurt Brinkgreve ontfermden zich over de oude grachtenpanden, de krotten in de Jordaan werden door handige types opgeknapt. De zittende bevolking vertrok naar Lelystad, Hoorn en Almere, zonder protest. In de stad groeide echter het jeugdige verzet. Dat keerde zich vooral tegen de paternalistische houding van de autoriteiten. Het mondde uit in de Nieuwmarktrellen van 1975. Later werden ze gevolgd door de veel heftiger krakersrellen. Verkiezingen brachten nieuwe, veel jongere bestuurders, eerst De Cloe en Lammers, later Schaefer en Van der Vlis. Het roer moest om. Men eiste andere plannen. Wat deed dit met Max? Van PW schoof hij door naar de secretarie op het stadhuis. Voor burgemeester Van Thijn regelde hij o.a. de Amsterdamse kandidatuur voor de Olympische Spelen van 1992. Het werd zijn laatste grote klus. Aansluitend vertrok hij naar de Universiteit Utrecht, waar hij hoogleraar Planologie werd. Vlak voor zijn overlijden schreef hij zijn memoires. Die zullen later dit jaar bij uitgeverij Thoth verschijnen. Ik heb ze gelezen. Wat ik zeg, het waren roerige tijden.

Witte plannen

On 7 februari 2016, in cultuur, participatie, regionale planning, by Zef Hemel

Gelezen op scholieren-com van 7 april 2000:

In de vorm van ‘witte plannen’ bood het Amsterdamse provo, opgericht op 25 mei 1965, allerlei speelse oplossingen voor grootstedelijke vraagstukken. Het Witte Fietsenplan uit zomer 1965 is de bekendste: om het autoverkeer uit de binnenstad te weren wilden de jongeren 20.000 witgeschilderde openbare fietsen plaatsen, vrij te gebruiken door alle bewoners binnen de Singelgracht. Ook beroemd geworden is het Witte Wijvenplan, dat geboorteregeling en vrije liefde propageerde. Het Witte Lijkenplan omvatte een alternatieve straf voor verkeersovertreders. Dat ging als volgt: zij die een dodelijk ongeluk op hun geweten hadden, dienden het silhouet van het slachtoffer in het asfaltdek uit te houwen en met witte specie te vullen. Bovendien moesten ze de familie een witte begrafenis aanbieden. Met het Witte Schoorstenenplan werd de luchtvervuiling op ludieke wijze bestreden. En met het Witte Woningenplan maakte provo sloopwoningen en leegstaande kantoren geschikt voor bewoning. Een onderdeel daarvan vormde het Witte Vuilnisbakkenplan voor onbehuisden: tot wieg omgebouwde vuilnisbakken voor starters op de woningmarkt. En met het Witte Kippenplan wilde men politieagenten omturnen tot sociaal werkers.

Voor de gemeenteraadsverkiezingen van juni 1966 werden alle Witte Plannen bij elkaar gevoegd in een ludiek programma voor Nieuw Amsterdam. Dat omvatte ook het Witte Kinderenplan (gratis kinderopvang), en het Witte Bedjesplan (ziekenhuisbedden in De Nederlandsche Bank aan het Frederiksplein). Alle ideeën en initiatieven werden ook uitgevoerd en uitgebreid getest, tot aan het loslaten van een witte kip in de Raadhuisstraat tijdens de huwelijksplechtigheid van prinses Beatrix en prins Claus. De autoriteiten konden het allemaal niet waarderen. Er werd door de politie hard opgetreden, ook de rechters waren niet mals. Provo Rob Stolk belandde zelfs in de gevangenis. Een verzoek tot gratie bij de koningin werd afgewezen. Op 15 mei 1967 hief provo zichzelf op. Kort daarvoor was in Nieuwe Revue een enquête gepubliceerd waarin 37 procent van het Nederlandse volk de provo’s het liefste wilde opsluiten. Dit alles las ik in een werkstuk geschiedenis van een scholiere van de derde klas VWO. Ze schreef: “Als er nu een zelfde soort beweging zou ontstaan, denk ik, dat we er beter mee om zouden kunnen gaan. De ideeën waren namelijk best haalbaar en de overheid zou het voor 100 procent moeten steunen.” Zou het echt? Denkt ze dat werkelijk?

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Noiseless city

On 19 januari 2016, in infrastructuur, by Zef Hemel

Seen and heard in Amsterdam on sunday 17 january 2016:

So the number of bikes in Amsterdam is at least 800.000. It means that 63 per cent of the Amsterdammers is riding a bike on a daily base. In the modal split, more than 32 per cent is biking, compared to 22 per cent using a car, and 16 per cent going with public transport. What does this mean? It means a noiseless city in the first place. The inhabitants of Amsterdam are almost not aware of it, but if you come from abroad you surely will notice that you almost do not hear any cars in the streets in Amsterdam. Many people, but no noise! You only hear friendly bells ringing, and electric trams moving. It seems almost impossible, no, it’s unique. Amsterdam is truly a silent city. What a quality of life!  No one should be complaining about the traffic. No? Well, there’s only one thing worth lamenting. Could we get rid of those horrible scooters? There are too many of them. They are really poisoning the Amsterdam atmosphere.

Because we all love biking, we meet our friends and acquaintances almost on a daily base, seeing them passing by, greeting them, not forgetting to telephone them afterwards, sending them an email. How are you? I saw you on your bike and we said hello, but shouldn’t we meet? Yes why not? Or we jump from our bikes and start a spontaneous conversation in the middle of the crowd. If we all would have traveled by car, this would never have happened. We would drive in our capsules, seeing nothing, meeting no other person, listening to the music on the radio, feeling bored, killing time. Just imagine, all those commuters in their cars, and we, bikers in Amsterdam, feeling free, being happy, greeting our friends every day. A ballet of bikes. Pure poetry. It makes us think Amsterdam is a village, which it is not. And I love those pictures of Ed van der Elsken from the sixties. Only men biking. I almost forgot: women were absent in public space. Have a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDNtafebmys

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Bad news, bad report

On 9 december 2015, in demografie, economie, ruimtelijke ordening, by Zef Hemel

Read in NRC Handelsblad of 1 December 2015:

There was some news on the future last week. Bad news. Hope you didn’t read it. In ‘The Netherlands will look like this in the future’, NRC Handelsblad reported on a scenario study of the Netherlands in the year 2050. The two long term scenario’s were made by the Central (economic) Planning Bureau (CPB) and the Dutch National Planning Office for the Environment (PBL). In ‘Toekomstverkenning Welvaart en Leefomgeving’ both Planning Bureaus are forecasting a slowing down of economic growth in the future in each scenario. It’s all because of demography: the Dutch population will shrink.  Whether there will be any economic growth, will depend on technology, the planners in The Hague think. Some of them have high expectations of smart machines and robotization, others are more sceptical. In most parts of the country there will be no growth at all. Some regions will shrink even by 10 or 25 percent. “This can change the streetscape completely.” In the scenario ‘High growth’ the Amsterdam region will show the best results, in the scenario ‘Low growth’ all of the country will cope with high unemployment, vacant buildings, administrative crises, budget cuts. So in the low growth scenario even in Amsterdam the streetscape will change completely. For worse.

The surprising fact is that the experts think the Randstad will lose power in each scenario compared to Overijssel, Gelderland and Noord Brabant. Why?  Because the big cities in the West, they write, have already too many one-person households. It’s a typical demographers view. They even advise to build new dwellings all over the country, especially in the East and the South, where they think these houses will be needed. There is no lack of space over there! And Amsterdam, one of them adds, “will certainly not explode,” referring to the heated discussion on recent extreme fast growth in Amsterdam. No discussion on the poor outcome of the scenario’s, on the lack of agglomeration economies in the Netherlands, on strange local effects of globalization. No thinking even on why all this slow or no growth in the future is expected and how we could boost our national economy instead, other than blaming demography and our open economy. Just a lousy, old fashioned report of some experts in a The Hague bureaucracy again. Don’t read it. Just forget it.

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Sick building syndrome

On 20 november 2015, in ruimtelijke ordening, by Zef Hemel

Read in Het Parool of 7 October 2015:

 

Foreign investors are buying pied-a-terres, luxury shopping malls, dwellings, office space on a big scale in Amsterdam. The financial crisis seems to be passé. Buying real estate is becoming more and more attractive. The mayor of Amsterdam wants a real estate fund that will finance the buying of dwellings in the city centre in order to prevent rich foreigners to become the property owners and prevent overheating. He hopes to discourage global market forces and counteract buying and selling of dwellings like in London, Paris and New York. End of this month, 30 November 2015, an edition of ‘Stadsleven’ (Urban Life) at De Balie in Amsterdam will be dedicated to ‘Big spenders’. Tracy Metz has invited guests to speak about buying and selling real estate in Amsterdam. Is it risky? Should we stop it? Or is it just great? Tracy asked me to write a piece on the subject for her website, which I did, of course. Then I read – a bit too late – the Amsterdam based newspaper Het Parool of 7 October. It said that real estate prices in Amsterdam are booming, while in the rest of the country they are stable. Prospects are unvaryingly detrimental. Detrimental?

In one of the reports on this issue, De Nederlandsche Bank points at the fact that rents in the Netherlands have stabilized as well, even in Amsterdam. That means returns on investments can only drop in the future. For new contracts renters will ask for lower rents because the vacancy rate in the Netherlands is far too high. The national bank is convinced that the situation on the Dutch real estate market will aggravate. “The capacity of office space is dropping, from 16 m2 per person now to 14 m2 in 2030. And internet shopping will steeply rise form 10 per cent now to 25 per cent in 2030, but it could also be 40 per cent.” Forty per cent? Too bad. Conclusion: in the rest of the country there has been a massive overproduction of real estate in the past, while in Amsterdam, where demand is high, overcapacity elsewhere hinders new building projects. Worse even, owners of real estate in Amsterdam who have paid the highest prices, will be confronted with the lowest returns on their investment. Something really to worry about.

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Looking backward

On 18 november 2015, in participatie, planningtheorie, by Zef Hemel

Heard in Pakhuis de Zwijger, Amsterdam, on 27 October 2015:

The 740th anniversary of Amsterdam was celebrated this year in Pakhuis de Zwijger, on 27 October. Another ten years to go. Then the city will celebrate its 750 anniversary. What should we add to the city? What’s still missing? A selection of speakers was asked to give their view on the city of the future. The aim of the long-term programme is getting citizens involved in a process that already started two years ago with asking some hundred young professionals working for Amsterdam-based companies to make scenario’s for the future – a process that will continue untill the year 2025. Ila Kasem, Paul Scheffer and Zef Hemel are the initiators of this inspiring ‘planning process’ of long-term engagement of citizens. We think that people should participate more, really contribute to and reflect on their own city as it will develop in the coming years. The format should not be a kind of competition or ‘challenge’, with winners and losers. There are no awards to win at all. We’re just fostering a more optimistic mood, many great new ideas, amazing plans, new entrepreneurship, thrift. Will we succeed?

What I found striking that night was the huge number of people who came up with proposals to add another museum to the city fabric:  for migration, for water management, for modern art, for this and for that. Every round in the Pakhuis ended with the M-word. But Amsterdam already has the highest museum density of Europe! Why adding more museums to the existing 75? And why are the citizens only looking backward? Why not forward? What are the people nostalgic for? It seems the future is too uncertain for them. There is no vision, no shared story, no goal, no hope, nothing to strive for as a civil society. Amsterdam’s Third Golden Age started with the reopening of the Rijksmuseum in 2013. This old building celebrates a national heroic history. Typical. We lack a Samual Sarphati, a visionary entrepreneur who built a People’s Industry Palace in 1864, a space of glass and steel where citizens could experience – almost enter – the future. Thank God it will reopen its doors in April 2016. But not the old one. We will welcome you in the new Public Library on the Oosterdok, where you will enter a brand new People’s Industry Palace, a space where in twelve weeks time more than 500.000 people will gather and dream their city’s future! See you there!

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The End of Biking

On 16 november 2015, in infrastructuur, by Zef Hemel

Read in Het Parool of 2 June 2014:

The era of Amsterdam as a great city for biking is coming to an end. After twenty years of growth we will no longer cycle that much. Really a pity. The miraculous growth of biking in the Dutch capital was due to many things: high parking tariffs for cars (since the end of the eighties), more young people living in the city (since the nineties), new bike lanes (since the millenium), lots of bike shops, great bike storage, beautiful bike design, urban densification, investments in public transport lagging behind, peak car, the end of suburbanization,  etc. After a slow beginning, the share of biking began to steeply rise: a success nobody could explain. Since 1990 there was a growth of bike trips in the city of more than forty per cent: from 443.000 tot 613.000. Exponential growth. In the modal split, the share of biking is now more than forty per cent. Can you imagine?  But the growth of bikes and biking is decreasing already. You can feel it. Soon it will going to halt. And then it will steeply drop. It’s the pattern Malcolm Gladwell described in ‘The Tipping Point’. Why? Because of all the scooters.

The number of scooters in Amsterdam went from 8.000 in 2007 to more than 30.000 in 2014: a growth of 275 per cent! On some bike lanes in rush hour, the share of scooters is already five to ten per cent. Two years ago there was no scooter parked in my street, last year there were six of them; now I counted at least twelve! My kids can no longer play on the sidewalk because of all those big, lousy machines. This is, again, exponential growth. As a professional biker I can feel it too. I prefer walking now. Yes I will stop biking. It has become uncomfortable, clearly unsafe, far too dangerous. In general, we are reaching the tipping point soon. So an era will come to an end. I’m very, very sorry. I apologise. Nobody intervenes. The mayor can do nothing, he says, he’s powerless. That’s our political system. It all depends on the Dutch government. But The Hague is far away, they’re not interested in Amsterdam problems. As a citizen I feel powerless too. Why voting any longer? That’s the democratic crisis. The system breaks.

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Oversupply

On 9 november 2015, in economie, stedenbouw, by Zef Hemel

Read in ‘Ghost Cities of China’ (2015) of Wade Shepard:

Tomorrow I will give my yearly lecture in the bachelor study course ‘Perspectives on Amsterdam’ at the University of Amsterdam, theme: Political Economy. This time I will focus on the Zuidas (Southaxis) project, the new CBD of Amsterdam. Will it be successful? How much will it cost? Why build it? While preparing my lecture, I reread in ‘Ghost Cities of China’ about the building of CBD’s in Chinese cities. The American journalist Wade Shepard describes in the book how all the cities in China are developing their own Central Business Districts. Shanghai was first, with its Lujiazui business district in Pudong; Beijing in the north and Guangzhou in the south followed. Shepard writes that it didn’t stop there: many other Chinese cities started building their own versions of the Pudong model, also the very small ones. “Hence in 2014 the CBD is a near ubiquitous landmark in China’s cities.”

In 2003 the Ministry of Construction tried to get a handle on the CBD building boom. It was a problem, because building a CBD is a very expensive undertaking and might cost each city a fortune. But still it continues. Shanghai plans to have at least even three CBD’s on the east, west and south sides of its urban core, while Beijing envisions four CBD’s. Of course, the model was borrowed from the West. Paris, London, New York all built their CBD’s in the recent past. But the USA has only two: New York and Chicago. All the Chinese cities though hope to become a financial hub of their own region, or even the entire country. Shepard concludes that all those CBD’s are now so common that it is necessary to have one just to keep up. And of course only the business districts in the two biggest cities are prospering. The vacancy rate in many provincial cities is now more than 40 percent. Still, many more will get build in the near future. Shepard: “So it is clear that China’s CBD oversupply can only get a lot worse.” Almost the Dutch VINEX-model, I would add, with every provincial city building its ‘Central District’ near the railway station. Meanwhile, with Amsterdam’s Southaxis competing with La Défense, Paris, and Canary Wharf, London.

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International solidarity

On 14 oktober 2015, in demografie, geschiedenis, by Zef Hemel

Read in Historisch Nieuwsblad nr.9 2007:

On an excursion last week, my students visited the Spaarndammerbuurt, Amsterdam. There, in museum Het Schip, they listened to the story of the Great War. The neighborhood, our young guide explained, was built in 1914-1920. In 1914 one million Belgian refugees had fled to the Netherlands in only a few days time. The Great War had started, with the Germans occupying Belgium. The city of Antwerp was evacuated. What did the Dutch government do? Not much. Mr. Cort van der Linden, the Dutch conservative prime minister, kept quiet for more than six weeks. It was Queen Wilhelmina who asked the population to help their neighbours and welcome them with open arms. In Amsterdam, a national committee – the ‘Amsterdam Committee’ – was installed by citizens. At last the government decided to build concentration camps all over the country, but mostly in the southern provinces. The refugees, it decided, should be imprisoned and leave the country as soon as possible. From then on, the Belgians had to live behind barbed wire, waiting for the moment to be sent back. To make things worse, the Dutch government started negotiations with the Germans in the hope to get rid of the Belgians as soon as possible. The Germans decided to build a fence of electric wire on the northern border of Belgium to stop the Dutch implementing their evictions.

The guide – a master student Social History at the University of Amsterdam – was telling his story with passion. The architects of the Amsterdam School, he told my students, were ordered by socialist deputy mayor Mr. Floor Wibaut personally to keep on building, thus creating new dwellings for the Belgian comrades. The magic architecture of Michel de Klerk was a political statement: socialist Amsterdam voting against conservative The Hague. The beautiful tower in the building of ‘Het schip’ – now a museum – is a symbol of international solidarity. Afterwards I asked the young guide why he told us all this. He said, “Well, because the same is happening in our country right now.” Mr. Rutte doing nothing. Even the king is holding his tongue. The refugees from Syria, Iraq and northern Africa have to stay in asylumseekers camps on the countryside. We should build dwellings in Amsterdam for them now. With beautiful architecture. And towers! We need Wibaut again!

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