For almost fifteen years now, the area to the west of Amsterdam’s ring road has been subject to large-scale redevelopment, in what is considered to be Europe’s biggest urban renewal program. The district called the Westelijke Tuinsteden (Western Garden Cities) has been built on the basis of the modernist General Expansion Plan of Cornelis van Eesteren. Presented as an advanced, modern living environment for the new Man, the area’s reputation has long been in decline. It’s image changed into that of a backward neighborhood, a ‘concentration area’ marked by segregation and social issues. The architecture has generally been seen as intrinsic to these problems, leading to the present large-scale demolition. Though officially the renewal program is supposed to protect the Garden City qualities of the area, in reality the restructuring lacks any coherent vision of what that would mean. Ironically, some of the same mistakes of the modernists planners are now being repeated, most notably the fixation on form in stead of the social use of space. This essay traces the origins of the ideas behind the planning of the Western Garden Cities, to see whether some of these can be salvaged and put to use again in the 21st century.
Dit is het levende archief van Merijn Oudenampsen, socioloog en politicoloog