Following a team trip to Amsterdam, Tiffany Cheung and Patrick Mill, design assistants at Ryder, discuss a city that’s been making its way since the 17th century.
The prosperity that once fell upon Amsterdam, attracting an overwhelming number of immigrants and refugees, causing population issues which the city faces again, some four hundred years later.
The unmistakable half moon ring canals we see today were born from this era - the successful outcome of city planning which meets the demands of a growing population. Consequently, not only was a moment in history embedded in the landscape, a new culture was carved from the connection to the waterways.
Amsterdam’s well developed infrastructure creates a strong sense of unity in the city, allowing a successful, active and healthy lifestyle amongst the population through the use of bicycles to navigate around the city. There are an estimated 800,000 bikes in Amsterdam, with approximately 63% of locals using them on a daily basis - making the city one of the most famous and important centres for bicycle culture in the world. This did however, seem to cause an issue with overcrowding in popular areas at peak times of the day.
Aside from the cycling, the city atmosphere is very chilled and relaxed during both the day and evening. This makes the region comfortable to explore with a good balance between cultural and entertainment attractions on offer.
As we observed a neighbourhood spending Saturday afternoon swimming and paddle boarding in their backyard canals, it seems having an open waterfront provides a strong sense of community. Upholding an agenda to engage people with their natural environment has greatly improved the urban realm and as we weaved our way around the districts we felt the improved quality of life in the tree lined streets and landscaped courtyards.
The city design values could also be seen in and around the meticulous brickwork. From where we stood on the streets, we viewed the sunlight illuminate a row of deep plotted town houses from large openings, in a clash of creativity, light and brickwork.
There is a strong relationship between Amsterdam and brick masonry - the material expresses a strong tie between the city’s past, present and future. As you walk through the brick dominated streets crowned with gables, it becomes clear that there is not only a strong consistency with high quality design but across multiple building sectors as well.
We visited MVRDV’s Chanel store near the city museum quarter which features an innovative façade combining a contemporary glass brick front with a traditional brick expression on the upper levels. The contrasting approach merges together creating an illusion of a dissolving wall. The level of natural luminosity inside was glorious.
There is still an unending amount of streets and corners to discover, and our first experience of Amsterdam, provided by the practice, left our team with an insatiable curiosity for more.