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Column Marianne Loof | Amsterdam Delta Works

30 March 2018

Cobouw marianne loof 180319 deltaplan

On everyones minds of course these days are the municipal elections. Number one topic of debate in Amsterdam is the city’s growth and related questions about how and when enough houses will be built, and for whom they will be built. While back in 2014 we had only just started to recover from an extended period of stagnation, today the pressure on the building sector seems heavier than ever before.

The various parties make different projections of the required building speed, ranging from 5000 (SP), 7500 (GroenLinks), 10,000 (PvdA & VVD) to 12,500 (D66) homes per year. Only the Partij voor de Dieren (lit.: ‘Party for the Animals’) has an outlier view, and hardly wishes to create new homes at all (Amsterdam should not have to house everyone). The question of who we should built for is extremely topical as well. Formulas like 40-40-20 or 30-40-30 are no longer jargon; talk of the optimal divisional scheme between social/middle/free sector rental homes has become part of the lingua franca of these elections.

Though I am not exactly undecided when it comes to the municipal elections, I am still curious as to the effects that different political views on these issues will have. And because architects, after all, prefer pictures over text, a recent Arcam initiative called “The Partylines - political programs envisioned” proved highly informative. On 6 March, eight architecture studios presented a visual analysis of eight party programs. Immediately evident are the small differences in terms of absolute numbers, especially since all parties will be able to realize large parts of these counts with plans that are already on the table, like. IJburg, Sluisbuurt, and Haven Stad.

The differences become larger, however, when we look at the city’s accessibility. London represents the absolute doom scenario, a city that has become completely unaffordable for the majority of the people, and that has become a playground for the economic elite. Several parties see part of the solution come from a priority system for Amsterdam-natives in both the rental- and real estate sector. A milder version of the same plan would require a minimum of 3 years economic footing in the city. Both have a bit too much of an ‘Amsterdam First’-ring to them…

A tremendous task lies ahead. Many ambitious plans have been formulated. And so it does not help that years of crisis have seriously stripped the design- and building sector. Realizing the required numbers of houses, whilst accounting for the transitions in mobility, energy and sustainability, will require the utmost from the available knowledge, know-how and creativity. Some already speak of the ‘Amsterdam Delta Works’.

My suggestion: let’s begin by making an end to our out-of-hand tendering practices, where each time five quality designs are made for every single realized program. It is an incredible waste of money, capacity and creative capital. If we truly wish to go full steam ahead, we will also need a Delta-plan 2.0 for tenders. That, or all we will be left with are scale models and paperwork.

March 2018,