Last week, Kleiburg, the classic Bijlmer apartment building, received the prestigious Mies Award. The building’s story is well-known. In 2011, Consortium DeFlat van Rochdale bought it for €1, and saved it from destruction. A major achievement. Kleiburg at the time was the last remaining original apartment building in a neighbourhood mainly transformed by demolition and replaced by low newly build.
The Mies Award Jury particularly praised the collective achievement of having turned what was previously a ‘housing machine’ into a place where residents can realise their individual desires. The building’s original character has been embraced and dealt with, not covered up. Real interventions have been made only at street level. Storage spaces have been replaced with entrances and collective facilities, reconnecting Kleiburg to the surrounding green area.
We should see Kleiburg’s renovation in perspective. In 2016, Daan Dekker published ‘De Betonnen Droom’ (concrete dreams), in which he tells the captivating story of Siegfried Nassuth, urban architect of the Bijlmer, of his youth, his studies, and his dreams of the ‘ideal city’, but also of contemporary discussions within the municipal services. It is also the story of how a dream of collective residential life in large and comfortable apartments, amid shared green spaces and car-free zones, gradually is being replaced by a reality of drugs and crime.
Today, the Bijlmer is working its way out of this depressed history. The neighbourhood is gaining in popularity, mostly due to the affordable and large apartments and the abundance of green that it has to offer, all at a few minutes by metro from the city centre. Some of the neighbouring low-rise and the ‘Gouden Leeuw’ apartment-building have been understood in this way for some time already. It appears that 50 years, a generation, is what it takes for a new historical layer to really become part of the city. Van Eesteren’s general expansion plan (AUP), planned in the 30s and built in the 50s, is today being referred to as the ‘nieuwe grachtengordel’ (the new canal district). Will the Bijlmer in ten years from now perhaps be called the new South-Central Amsterdam?
May 2017, Cobouw.nl