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In Amsterdam, an ambitious team is making their innovative ideas come true on the riverbanks of the Van Hasseltkanaal. This is the successful story of the regeneration of land and material: the multidisciplinary project “De Ceuvel”. A temporary eco-community of refurbished houseboats, built on a former shipyard.

It is a clever idea: clean the polluted soil with plants and place refurbished houseboats on the green site as workspace for creative and social enterprises. Initiated in 2010, construction started in the spring of 2013 and will be completely finished in the summer of 2014. For a period of ten years, this piece of former wasteland will house a “purifying garden”, over ten workspaces, plus a research lab where sustainable methods are tested, to eventually leave a cleaner site.

The initiators have designed a multidciplinary team[1] to entered the competition of Amsterdam Noord with their clever idea. They won and soon after, specialists joined in and all parties connected their skills and innovative ideas. Besides the two initiating firms, the main team now also includes Metabolic and DELVA Landscape Architecture, to design respectively the Cleantech Playgound and phytoremediation park. Supported by several other partners and volunteers, they are turning the polluted brownfield into a pilot project of how innovative ideas can build a better future.

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cultural and social context Edit

Traditionally, the future for such an attractively located plot of land, would be sale, mechanical sanitation and construction. The municipality of Amsterdam decided to act different. It was Amsterdam Noordwaarts, part of the municipality that offered this piece of land in a competition. To be used for ten years, without rental costs. Due to the bad conditions of the soil, not many competitors dared to take the risk. The innovative idea of Glasl and Smeele brought an unexpected logical solution.

The successful translation of this idea into reality, is also due to the organization structure. The development of the project is defined as top-up, rather than the common top-down or bottom-up, by Sanderine van Odijk, from sustainable development agency Metabolic. She explains this approach as following: ‘There is a steering group, which sets vision and is leading the project. Volunteers help and together they create a community. For and by people’.

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materials and building techniques Edit

Waste land and materials are used to build something with value and beauty. Due to the polluted soil, the team decided to use houseboats with a steel or concrete base and construct the winding boardwalk on poles to avoid direct contact with the soil. Many sustainable solutions are integrated, making the individual houseboats interact with each other and the site, creating the desired eco-system model.

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earth and climate Edit

The project De Ceuvel is located on a river bank in Amsterdam, a Dutch city with sufficient rainfall for the “green sea” to grow. This green see consists of purifying plants which extract the poison from the ground. After the project leaves the site, the soil will be cleaner.


Project details
Project name: De Ceuvel
Description: A temporary settlement designed to regenerate an urban wasteland
Category: urban planning
Design: urban design and concept: space&matter | architecture: space&matter | landscape design: DELVA landscape architects | Community management: Marjolein Smeele | Financing: Jeroen Apers
Consultants: Bas van Schelven, Huib Koel
Building status: under construction
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Coordinates: 52°23'41.9'' N, 4°54'17.5'' E
Tags: community, urban renewal, temporary, water living, recycled recources
Project ID: 452
Published: 25 March 2014
Last updated: 20 November 2014
(images have individual licenses)
CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
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