FORMER PRISON COMPLEX BIJLMERBAJES, AMSTERDAM

RETHINKING THE ABSORPTION CAPACITY OF URBAN SPACE

In the thesis that I developed in the master programme in Urbanism at TU Delft, I examined theories and practices of migration in Dutch urban space. The diverse flows of migrants to the Netherlands are primarily taken as temporary housing problems. This leads to exclusion and missed opportunities and – more importantly – results in a monoculture that can be considered negative for urban

space. I argued that if refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants need to be integrated in our cities and societies, a more long-term urban approach is urgently needed. The former prison complex Bijlerbajes and surrounding area in Amsterdam were taken in my thesis as case study to foster and elaborate guidelines for an alternative development strategy that could

build up a more diverse, porous and resilient urban space that is better equipped to deal with demographic fluctuations and change. The strategy consisted of designed and organised grid in which orchestrated small-scale investments, grass roots initiatives and diverse programmes could take place.

Temporariness presuposes stability and the other way around

The strategy leads to an imaginary future scenario for the area. The project proposes to (re)open the former prison complex and to (re)create a Hotel City, where newcomers and temporary inhabitants can be received and prepare their integration into society. The ‘empty’ area next to the former prison complex is transformed into an experimental area with a lot of freedom, where companies, institutions and individuals can rent, lease and develop space. The two zones (prison and empty area) are

connected by a grid structure of public space and can together function as free-zone for experiments with new social and economic policies and practices. A planning obligation will guarantee that temporary use or developments in the plots of the experimental area will make a positive contribution to public space. Users of the plots are obliged to invest in the framework of public space. Besides, technical conditions have been developed for the borders between the plots and public space grid. These

technical conditions will result in several walls with different degrees of permeability, creating new public-private spaces. In this way, a place can be carved out where newcomers, temporary inhabitants and more permanent residents of Amsterdam can together and actively become part of urban space. The intervention of a grid public space connects temporary stay and use with more long-term developments and permanent structures.  

You can download the complete thesis here

Development of different scenarios (public/private) depending on various stakeholders

Imaginary scenario of what it could look like