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Column Marianne Loof | Spirit of the City

05 May 2017

Cobouw marianne loof 170620 ziel van de stad

During the ‘Dag van de Architectuur’, Sunday June 18th, architecture was celebrated around the country. For a change, I didn’t attend, but took some time to take a step back. Going for a run along the Amstel river, I could take a more distant look at Amsterdam.

It was only last month, that I stepped down as chair of the Urban Quality Advisory Commission, six years after my appointment to what was then called the Architecture and Monuments Review Committee. After a substantial period of involvement with the development of Amsterdam’s urban quality, I passed on the baton to Eric Luiten, during the Symposium ‘Spirit of the City’.
We would almost forget, but only six years ago nearly every construction site in the city was being shut down. Today, over 50,000 apartments are scheduled for construction. This overwhelming revival of the market is cause for both hope and concern. “Will Amsterdam remain the same?”, it is often asked. Amsterdam is an ambitious little town with cosmopolitan qualities. Unique to the city are its many quartiers with their own distinct and well-maintained characteristics. Every phase of expansion obtained, in time, its own spatial identity. Typical to Amsterdam, too, is the fact that collective quality at all scales, and not individual iconic buildings, forms the heart and soul of the city.

According to Youri Albrecht, director of cultural centre De Balie, Amsterdam’s spirit is strong as ever, thanks to all those Amsterdammers not afraid to speak up. Architectural historian Marinke Steenhuis warns against the risk of ‘big money’ taking hold over the city once again. Christiaan Rapp, City Architect of Antwerp, plead for the importance of doing open design-research prior to city planning by the market or the city.
Nearly all projects that were opened during the ‘Dag van de Architectuur’ at some point have come through our commission. Some have been built unadjusted, some have been adjusted according to our advice. Producing such advice is a balancing-act, in which divergent interests have to be reckoned with in order to work in the interest of the city.
I look back at six years of passionate involvement in this balancing act, as chair of a wonderful team of equally passionate advisers and secretaries.

June 2017,