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Column Marianne Loof | Schiphol: curse of blessing?

26 September 2016

Cobouw marianne loof 160922 schiphol vloek of zegen

Schiphol celebrates its 100th anniversary. A beautiful animation by the Amsterdam City Archives shows the airport’s development in the Haarlemmermeer polder, from a small landing strip in 1916 to a global hub that handles 58 million passengers per year. Schiphol’s expansion plans for the coming years include a seventh landing strip. The main hurdle on the airport’s way to expansion is and has for many years been noise pollution. And even with the regulation of noise contours in place, many people from around the airport feel sidestepped. Looked at in this way, Schiphol is a great stressor to the quality of life in the region.

At the same time the noise contours map fits almost seamlessly onto the region’s open green spaces. So one might also conclude differently: it is thanks to Schiphol that the Amsterdam-Haarlem-Groene Hart region retains so much open space. A major quality of this region are the clear city borders and the green areas between them. Contrast this with the situation in the Rijnmond-region, where the city of Rotterdam has become entirely enclosed in a vast low-density urban sprawl.

The noise contours around Schiphol have prevented the spatial planning-reflex of recent decades – filling green areas with low density housing – from transforming the Amsterdam region as it has done elsewhere. In retrospect, we should be thankful for this. The housing question, as urgent today as ever, is not solved by urban sprawl, but by achieving higher density and sustainability within the existing urban contours – a view that fortunately is becoming increasingly shared. By imposing this task on Amsterdam, Schiphol’s presence has been a blessing to the region.

September 2016,