A sociological, historical, demographical study about the city of Amsterdam.
COSTANZO RANCI, CAROLINA PACCHI, MARA POPOLIZIO
ANALYSIS OF THE CITY OF AMSTERDAM
Celeste Calzolari 779725
Mathieu Gorris 784647
Silvia Sanasi 778497
Sara Sciuccati 778099
1. PHYSICAL TRANSFORMATION OF AMSTERDAM
1.1 AMSTERDAM, A MODEL OF CITY PLANNING
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and is located in the province of Noord-Holland, on the south
bank of the river IJ. The name Amsterdam, originally “Amesterdamme,” suggests the origin of the city: a dam
in the river Amstel. In fact it settled as a small ﬁshing village in the 13th century.
In this chapter we will analyze the chronological development of the city in terms of morphology, trying to
understand also the economical and demographic conditions that inﬂuenced expansions and the creation of
plans and infrastructures. Three main periods particularly inﬂuenced the physical transformation of the city. First
of all the so called the “Golden age”, the 17th century was particularly prosperous and led to the ﬁrst and
probably most consistent increase of population and physical expansion of the city where the system of
canals is dominant. The modern age also assisted to a demographic growth and expansion of the city, initially
thanks to the industrial revolution. The great innovation of this period is represented by the necessity of
creating a general masterplan in order to control the expansion, therefore number of plans were drawn up in
this period. Finally we are going to analyze the contemporary age, in particular the administrative system. Also
in the next chapter we will show an overview of the population and in the last one, a number of detailed
transformation projects for the development of the new ﬁnancial district, Zuidas.
1.2 THE GOLDEN AGE - 17TH CENTURY
The Golden Age, in the 17th century, was of unprecedented prosperity for Amsterdam, therefore this epoch
was crucial for the city’s development in the future and it is explanatory for the limited impact that Industrial
Revolution had in the Netherlands. Furthermore, since the 17th century a tradition of freedom and tolerance
has been present, thanks to the settlement of the leftwing government, which will rule on Amsterdam for the
rest of its history: catholics, protestants, jews and ‘free-thinkers’ could live together in a coherent way and
could stay true to their own beliefs and different opinions.
One of the most important elements in the success of the Dutch trading culture was the foundation of the
VOC (Verenigde Oost-Indische Companie) in 1602. Given this extreme economic growth and possibilities, the
increase of the population in Amsterdam was impressive. Already in the beginning of the existence of
Amsterdam, the city was characterized by a mixture of different people and especially in this period acquired a
distinctly cosmopolitan character.
The city, that around 1570 counted less than 30.000 inhabitants, in 1620 reached 100,000 inhabitants.
Therefore the city developed rapidly and underwent a signiﬁcant urban expansion, namely the construction of
the ﬁrst canal belt in 1613. The canals functioned as a fortiﬁcation and a wall was built behind them, where
nowadays Nassaukade and Stadhouderskade are now located. Three large canals were dug in western
direction: Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht.
In 1675 the estimated population of Amsterdam reached 206,000 citizens. Only in London, Paris and Naples
lived a comparable amount of people. Therefore, again a physical expansion of the city was required. In 1700,
in the surroundings of the existing canal belt a working-class neighborhood called De Jordaan was realized in
1.3 MODERN HISTORY (19th -20th CENTURY)
Between the very end of 18th century until the early 19th century, Amsterdam had to face an epoch of
decline due to the English Maritime Wars and the French invasion by Napoleon I. During this period
Amsterdam experienced an economic recession, reﬂected by the stagnation of the demographic
development. In 1810 the population declined to 180,000 inhabitants.
After these few decades, though, a period of expansion for the city of Amsterdam occurred. Thanks to the
positive effects that industrialization and the development of colonial commerce had on the Netherlands, new
trading relations and routes were realized and new types of industries were created. As a result the population
doubled from around 250.000 inhabitants in 1850 to 510.000 in 1900. Especially from 1870, the Industrial
Revolution started to inﬂuence the city. In 1839 the ﬁrst railway-line of the Netherlands was realized from
Amsterdam to Haarlem. These reasons clearly led to a physical expansion of the city. In fact, in 1874 a law
allowing districts to be built outside the conﬁnement was approved.
In addition, order to take beneﬁts from these expansions, the city had to provide a modern harbor. Therefore,
in 1875 the Noordzeekanaal canal was built, which functioned as a direct connection between the harbors of
the capital and the sluices of IJmuiden, a passage towards the North Sea.
Since the migration from the countryside to the city, was considerable, the expansion of the city was critical
and the implementation plans were not sufﬁcient anymore. A masterplan for Amsterdam was needed,
resulting in the 19th century belt created by Jan Kalf in 1875. Kalf proposed a ring of development around the
cluster following, as street layout, the irrigation grid of the pre-existing rural plot subdivision. Furthermore the
plan abandoned the radiocentric form, extending orthogonally in two directions. It only concerned the street
layout, leaving to private real estate developers the possibility to manage by themselves the building
The 1910’s expansion of the harbor was the starting point of a new plan: the municipality decided to provide
new neighborhoods and houses for the needier classes.
The housing construction problem was carried out in a totally different way compared to the previous plan,
and the new blocks were meant to clearly deﬁne the urban structure, with the creation of a square and
location of public facilities and businesses. Big typological innovation were embodied, for example the facade
design played an important role as ﬁlter between external and indoor spaces, with a special monumental
approach for the ones facing the square. It’s worth of consideration that the Amsterdam Zuid plan of 1921
greatly follows these principles and implementation methods.
Due to the 1875 project by Kalf, playing on an orthogonal system based on two directions, with the new
expansion plan a geometrical problem came up: the junction of two direction axes, which was easily solved
with the monumental construction of the Rijksmuseum, and the connection of this shape to a new
development pattern. The plan by Berlage, approved in 1917, intentionally ignored the grid created by Kalf’s
plan, creating a self-standing urban structure reminding to the canal order of the old city, surrounded by the
Because of the population growth a new plan was required to be comprehensive with the whole municipal
territory and with a ﬁfty years contemplation. The new Algemeen Uitbreidingsplan (master plan) was prepared
in 1928, thanks also to the Amsterdam Olympic Games of the same year which helped the relaunch of
construction activity, starting to organize the new expansion according to the principle of separated functions
and in continuity with the existing city, in order to realize 10000 new housing units. The settlement was fan-
shaped, going from west to east and preventing the fusion of the new neighborhoods by using some green
areas to divide them.
This way the old city became the core of this cluster of four different patterns: Amsterdam West - the garden
city built by D. Greiner - Amsterdam Zuid, Amsterdam Oost - the area of Bos en Lommer, which main axis
Hoofdweg- Mercatorplein was built in 1925 - and Amsterdam Noord - with the garden cities of Buiksloterham
and Nieuwendammerham. All this cluster is enclosed by four main elements: the Amstel and the Vondelpark in
the southern part, the IJ and the harbor in the northern part.
Amsterdam’s economy ﬂourished up until the 1920s. During the two following decades, the city suffered from
the global economic recession. By 1930 the population of Amsterdam is nearly 757,000, there were efforts
to build more houses to accommodate the fast-growing population.
Unfortunately, the 1929 worldwide crisis caused a halt of the construction activity, some new projects were
launched starting from 1933.
During World War II, Amsterdam was home for many Jewish families escaping from other Dutch cities which
had been strongly inﬂuenced by the anti-Jewish policy adopted by the Nazis. Unfortunately, German troops
occupied the city in 1940, and more than 100,000 Jews were deported, almost completely wiping out the
After the end of the war, Jews who returned from the concentration camps were faced with neglect and
sometimes outright hostility: possessions and buildings were given back with a really slow pace, mostly
around 1950, while other forms of compensation and restitution only came much later in time.
As we have already seen, Amsterdam has always been dominated by a left-winged government, with the
PvdA as the biggest party. The political wing of the Provos won a seat on the city council of Amsterdam, and
developed the "White Plans". Generally the plans sought to address social problems and make Amsterdam
1.4 THE CONTEMPORARY AGE
One of the relevant results of Amsterdam major urban expansion in the 1960s is Bijlmer neighborhood. The
original project looked very impressive, with a series of identical high-rise buildings organized in a hexagonal
grid. The project was meant to attract a large number of suburban population and the buildings had different
characteristics in respect to the traditional dutch ones. On the other hand the different functions were seen as
separate activities and for this reason the new area was seen ad bland and unattractive. Since few middle-
class people wanted to live there, the original plan was not totally realized. From the 60’s many guest workers,
mainly from Turkey, immigrated to Amsterdam and settled mainly in the Bijlmer and, after Surinam obtained
independence in 1975, a relevant ﬂux of Surinamese immigrants followed. The ﬁrst connection by subway
was created in 1977, especially connecting the new suburb of Bijlmer and the center of Amsterdam.
More recently the city developed IJburg, an interesting project built on six artiﬁcial islands on the IJmeer,
located on the east side of the municipality.
Nowadays the capital counts 790.044 inhabitants, with a percentage of 50,5% foreign citizens, compared to
20,6% of the total amount in the Netherlands. Amsterdam is the city that hosts the most different nationalities
in the world, namely 177. We will analyze the demographic situation of the city in depth in the next chapter.
Nowadays, Amsterdam is the ﬁnancial and business capital of the Netherlands and it is also one of the
reference points of International Business in Europe. Schiphol Airport, located south-west of Amsterdam, is an
important element for both economical and infrastructural reasons. This is one of the biggest and most
important airports in Europe. namely on the ﬁfth position regarding the ﬂow of passengers and on the third
regarding cargo, a really important element in the Dutch logistics, the transportation of goods, which drives the
Dutch economy. The Port of Amsterdam, located in Westpoort, has the same function of transporting goods,
though it can't compete with the capacity of the main harbor of the Netherlands, namely Rotterdam, which is
the biggest and most important in Europe, together with the harbors of Antwerp (Belgium) and Hamburg
(Germany). Nonetheless, also many tourists during the year come to visit Amsterdam with cruise-ships using
the Amsterdam Passenger Terminal on the IJ-river, located close to the central station.
Amsterdam is building new projects in order to expand the capacity of the infrastructures such as the
Weststrandweg, a second Coentunnel, the Gaasperdammerweg and the enlargement of the A10-Zuid. In
2002 they started the construction of a new, fully underground subway-line, which will be ready in 2017: the
Noord/Zuidlijn, connecting the northern and southern part of the city. After completing the project in 2017 they
expect 200.000 users a day, which makes it the most important infrastructural element of the city by far.
Especially the connection with the business-district, the Zuidas, is of great importance. In fact, as we will
mention in the last chapter, the Zuidas has recently become the main ﬁnancial and legal hub.
We can investigate this kind of organization studying more in depth the Dutch Model, an interesting planning
system in the european reality.
In the Netherlands there are three layers of government, namely on national, provincial and municipal level.
Each level has independent legislative and administrative powers under the overall supervision of the central
state and, therefore, can be described as a decentralized unitary state. Each level has its roles set out in the
constitution and all levels are involved regarding implementing plans, while formulating their own regulation
plans they are not allowed to be in conﬂict with a higher level.
Provinces have elected governments and their role can be described as one of intermediary and coordinator.
Therefore they play an important role in economical and physical planning and
environmental matters within their region. The responsibilities of municipalities are characterized by autonomy of
action within their own areas. We already mentioned their responsibilities and autonomies, and the supervision
of the allowed budget which needs approval of the provinces.
The Dutch system is described as a comprehensive and strong one, in which the absence of ﬂexibility is an
important point of discussion. Therefore, Amsterdam (just like Rotterdam), uses a special system. For
example, Amsterdam owns 75% of its territory, and, therefore, has the possibility to acquire its land, service it
and sell or lease it to private developers. This condition affects the relationship between the state and the
1.6 BUILDING CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES AND LAND CONDITIONS AFFECTING CITY PLANNING
Typical Dutch technical constraints in city planning have given a particular aspect to land problems in
Amsterdam. The land problem is created by the fact that Amsterdam is situated below the sea level, so the
proper existence of land, before buildings, depends on a technical intervention. By means of drainage,
polders and ﬁnally dykes (dams), land can be obtained. Obtained land was ﬁrst cultivated and only in the
period that we are talking about used also for construction: dykes need to be watched over for at least ﬁve
years before the construction of buildings and then checked by the municipality periodically to guarantee the
This means that decisions on building construction are taken out of private hands. Difﬁculties encountered in
making land usable encouraged the concentration of buildings, because their concentration guaranteed
stability. In Amsterdam, due to this kind of interventions, the canals create a very clear urban structure, allowing
an economical and logical distribution of the space.
Map showing the expansion of the city (13th-20th century)
2. AMSTERDAM POPULATION
The Netherlands is the most dense country in the world
with 477 inhabitants per square kilometers of land. The
capital Amsterdam is the city with the highest number of
inhabitants, namely 790,044, with a density rate of 4,791
per square kilometers. The density of dwellings in
Amsterdam is 2,401 per square kilometer with an average
of two inhabitants per dwelling. Amsterdam is the city with
the highest amount of different nationalities in the world,
namely 177. 50,3% of the people living in Amsterdam don’t
have a Dutch origin.
2.2 MIGRATION OF AMSTERDAM
In Amsterdam we analyzed several phenomena of migration. In the 80's there was a particular migration of
inhabitants of Amsterdam towards new cities nearby, such as Almere and Purmerend. During those years
these cities were subjected to transformations according to a governmental urban plan. This plan promoted
suburbanization and realized new developments in the so called "groeikernen" (cores of growth). Therefore,
young professionals and artists moved into neighborhoods such as de Pijp and the Jordaan, which were
‘abandoned’ by these Amsterdam natives.
Regarding the migration of inhabitants with Dutch
origins in relation with other municipalities in the
Netherlands, there’s a ﬂux going outwards which
stayed more or less equal since 1996. Around
30,000 people a year move outwards, shown in the
graph on the right with the dark blue line. The
immigration (light blue line) has been increasing since
2001 and is now, in 2012, exceeding the ﬂux of
people moving out of the city.
While focussing on the immigration of different age categories
(graph on the left), starting with 20-29 years, there were
15,000 people moving from an other municipality towards
Amsterdam in 2006. This amount is more than half of the total
domestic ﬂux and two times the amount of the same people
that moved out of the city. The main reasons for this ﬂux is
work and study. Regarding the age category of 30-39, the
amount of people moving out is greater than the ﬂux moving
in. therefore, in this category there is a decrease in the
amount of population. The main reason for emigrating is the
start of a family. Because of this, we can also conclude that
this is in relation with the age category of 0-9.
In the graph shown on the right the reasons are given
why Dutch natives move to Amsterdam: family
migration has been the most important which can
easily be connected to reasons for migration regarding
work. The amount of students moving to Amsterdam
has been increasing and is related to the age category
of 20-29 mentioned before. People searching for
asylum is the less common reason nowadays, though
it has been different in the past. This phenomenon will
be further analyzed in the following chapter, focussing
on the three main population ﬂows.
2.3 IMMIGRATION FLOWS OF FOREIGNERS TO AMSTERDAM
The Repatriation from Indonesia
After the decolonization of Indonesia, an average amount of Dutch natives and people from the second
generation (Eurasians) had to leave the new Indonesian Republic to go back to their country of origin. The
Dutch government had some hesitation about accepting their settlement in the Netherlands but the population
tried to give to their children a high level of education in the Dutch school system, and they developed
favorable economic conditions. According to this, the case was more seen as a repatriation instead of
immigration, and these immigrants integrated well into the society.
The Labourers from Mediterranean Countries
During the 60‘s, the Dutch government signed agreements with several Mediterranean countries recruiting
labourers for industry and mining sectors. Because of the disbelief the country had to migration ﬂows, they
drawn up the Buitenlandse Arbeiders of 1970, which stated that the Netherlands is not a migration country
and it will never become in the future. Even when the Turkish and Moroccan families of the labourers began
settling, the government kept neglecting this reality of immigration and increasingly permanent settling. Their
children received an education in their own language and culture, supposed to go back to their country of
origin one day, and the educational task was given to special teachers especially brought to the Netherlands
from those countries.
The Surinamese Immigration
The population of Suriname was made of African slaves, soon melted to the Europeans who moved. The kids
received Dutch education, so richest families sent them to the Netherlands to complete their education, and
most of them never went back to Suriname. During WWII the ﬂow interrupted but, thanks to the fast
recovering of the Netherlands and the 1954 Statuut, it started again during the 50s, generating chain
migration later on. Consequently, also lower-skilled Surinamese started to migrate. ‘Het Statuut door het
Koninkrijk der Nederlanden’ of 1954 is a constitutional law regulating the Dutch West Indies' economy and
stipulating that there was only one citizenship in the whole kingdom, letting the citizens travel without
The independence of Suriname and the end of the Statuut came in 1975 with the new leftwing Dutch
cabinet, but a visa regulation for Surinamese emigration only came in 1980. These 5 years of gap signed a
massive immigration, the “beat the ban rush” phenomenon: people wanted to migrate as quick as possible. In
1966 13,000 Surinamese lived in the Netherlands. In 1972 the immigration got a high increase and it
reached 51,000. In 1975 110,000 Surinamese were living in the country and in 1980 they became
145,000. A huge migration rate compared to the total population of Suriname of 385,000 in the beginning of
A urgent housing problem emerged: a settlement program was stated and municipalities had to take in a
number of Surinamese families. In Amsterdam, the Bijlmer, intended to house the Dutch working classes and
remained empty because of the questionable design taste used, became an enclave of newly arrived
Surinamese. High unemployment rates were soon replaced, in the second generation, with an average
educational level and a integrated residential pattern, even if they still took part into the suburbanization process
The return rate of the Surinamese to their mother-country had never been higher than 3%, and a big number
of returnees had migrated back to the Netherlands again.
Information about the reasons behind immigration nowadays is analyzed by the ‘immigration -and naturalization
service’, called IND (Immigratie en Naturalisatiedienst). Though, it’s difﬁcult to do a proper research. In order to
make a rough calculation the IND analyses signiﬁcant variables such as gender, age, civil class, year of settling
in the Netherlands and country of birth. Especially for EU-citizens reasons of migration are often unknown. In
2009 only 20% of the motifs was known, and nowadays this percentage is still decreasing. The three main
reasons are work, marriage and reuniting with the family.
2.4 DISTRIBUTION OF ETHNICITIES IN THE URBAN AREA
In this paragraph we are analyzing the composition of the population by ethnic origin of each areas of
Amsterdam, and their property value. Amsterdam is divided in eight main districts (map on the left).
Amsterdam city center is inhabited
by almost 82,000 people at is one
of the most dense areas of the city.
Among all districts, it has one of the
highest number of dwellings
(47,030 ). In this district 63 % of the
inhabitants are autochthonous. The
city center is the district with most
western foreigners (23%). The value
of houses is one of the highest,
after Oud-Zuid. On average, houses
in Centrum have only 2.5 rooms
which is the lowest number of all
This area is composed by 3 main neighborhoods: Oud-West, De Baarsjes and Bos en Lommer.
The Oud-West is a district that was largely built before the WWII nearby the the city centre. Over 31,000
people live in this district. Among these, over 60% are autochthonous, 19% are western expats or foreigners.
The average number of rooms in Oud-West is quite low (2.8).
De Baarsjes is situated just within de center ring road on the west of the city. There are 34,000 inhabitants,
many foreigners, half of them are non-western foreigners, especially form Suriname, and 14 % are western
foreigners. De Baarsjes contains almost 19,000 houses of in average 3 rooms. The value of property is in line
with Amsterdam’s average.
Bos en Lommer is situated on the west side of the city just inside the center ring road. Over 30,000 people
live in this district. Only 7 % of them are over 65 years of age. Also here the percentage of foreigners is quite
high: 56% are non- western foreigners while 10% are western foreigners. With a little under 15,000 homes,
Bos en Lommer has least homes of all Amsterdam districts (after Westpoort). It is also one of the district where
homes are valued lower.
Amsterdam Nieuw West
The main districts of this area are Geuzenenveld-Slotermeer, Slotervaart and Osdorp.
Geuzenenveld-Slotermeer is situated just outside the center ring road in the west of the
city. More than 41,000 inhabitants live in this district.The percentage of foreigners in Geuzenenveld-Slotermeer
is 65%, but only 9% of all inhabitants are western foreigners. According to the average, property value in
Geuzenveld-Slotermeer is considerably low.
Slotervaart has 45,000 inhabitants. Most of them are under 50 years of age. 50% are social rent houses,
while 26.2% of all housing are owner-occupied property. With this percentage Slotervaart is the district with
most owner- occupied houses after Osdorp, and the property value s lower that Amsterdam average.
Osdorp district is quite far from the city center, differently from the previous two. Over 45,000 inhabitants live in
Osdorp.16% of them is over 65 years of age which is a quite high percentage compared to other Amsterdam
districts. Half of the inhabitants are Dutch and 10% are expats or western foreigners. Osdorp is the district with
the highest percentage owner- occupied houses (32%), the property value is in line with the average one.
Zuid is situated south of the city centre. This district has over 83,000 inhabitants. Over 60% of them are Dutch
people while 20% are western foreigners, which is fairly high. Furthermore, people of 25 to 39 years old are
slightly more represented than other age ranges, only 10% of the inhabitants is older than 65 years of age.
Zuid is the area that has the highest number of dwellings, almost 48,000. The value of the houses is the
highest in all Amsterdam district.
The main districts of Amsterdam Oost are Oost- Watergraafsmeer, ZuiderAmstel and Zeeburg.
Oost-Watergraafsmeer is situated south-east of the city center within the center ring road. Almost 59,000
inhabitants live in here, 45% of them are foreigners, many of them are western foreigners and expats.Almost
30,000 houses are located in Oost- Watergraafsmeer, 18.2% of them are owner-occupied houses and their
value is higher than the average.
Zuider-Amstel is a district situated on the south border of Amsterdam. There are 47,000
inhabitants, 40 % of them is above 50 years of age and 21 % is over 65 years of age, which is the highest
percentage of inhabitants over 65. There is also a large number of expats or western foreigners. Inhabitants
are spread over 28,000 households. Most of the households are single person households (almost 58%).
23.4 % of all houses in ZuiderAmstel is owner- occupied and the average value is one of the highest.
ZuiderAmstel is a popular district because of its good location and the nice property.
Zeeburg is partially built in the IJ river and it’s is a quite new and attractive district. Almost 44,000 inhabitants
live in Zeeburg, spread in 20,000 houses. Only 6% are people over 65 years of age, which is the lowest
percentage in Amsterdam. Approximately 40 % are nonwestern foreigners. 12 % are western foreigners.
Zeeburg is still expanding at a quick pace: in 10 years from now the estimated number of inhabitants will be
Zuidoost is separated from Amsterdam's other districts by two villages, Ouder-Amstel and Diemen. It counts
about 79,000 inhabitants spread over three area's. Most of them live in Bijlmer (58%) followed by
Gaasperdam (40%) and Driemond (2%). The inhabitants are usually quite young. Zuidoost is also known
because of the large amount of national backgrounds. There are about 130 different national backgrounds
and the most representative one is Surinam. Western foreigners constitute only 8 % of the inhabitants. The
houses in this district are about 38,000 homes. There is a variety of buildings: a lot of cheap homes can be
found, as well as luxurious apartments and blocks of ﬂats.
District Noord is separated from other Amsterdam districts by 'het IJ ', a large river just behind Central Station.
With almost 88,000 inhabitants, Noord is the most populated. The lowest percentage of western foreigners
live in Noord (9%). Almost 40,000 houses are located in here, 18.3% of them are owner-occupied.
Westpoort is an expanding harbour and industrial area, there are about 1500 companies. This district is under
control by the municipality. About 40,000 people work in Westpoort but only 100 homes are situated here. As
a consequence they are the largest of the city with 4.2 rooms. Only 9% of them is private property. They are
occupied for 70 % by autochthonous, 21% are western foreigners, which is the highest percentage of
western foreigners in the city.
Distribution of ethnicities over the years
The following maps are showing the concentration of foreigners settled in Amsterdam respectively in 1970,
1990, 2000 and 2012 divided by neighborhoods.
It is possible to notice an increasing of immigration ﬂows during the years. In particular immigrants settled in
some areas, where land prices were cheaper and where it was possible to ﬁnd more job opportunities. The
areas with the highest percentage of immigrants are the south-western one, where the main industries are
located and the very south-east part, especially Bijlmer, where low price housing was created; because these
new buildings were not accepted by the municipality social housing was created there and it was possible for
immigrants to afford buying apartments in that area. In recent years they also started to settle in the Northern
area, where cheap housing from the 60s were located. In the maps: the darker means higher concentration
of foreign ethnicities.
Property values and attractiveness of residential areas
As a consequence to the maps shown before, the map about the attractiveness of the different
neighborhoods shown below, clearly shows the relationship with immigration: the lighter colored areas indicate
the less degree of attractiveness, and they are strictly correlated to the areas in which different ethnicities are
more concentrated. The whole
neighborhood of Bijlmer, the
industrial South-West part and the
North-West axis present a very low
attractiveness. It is also possible to
notice the inﬂuence that this factor
has on the income of population
l i v i n g i n t h o s e s p e c i ﬁ c
neighborhoods (map on the bottom
of the page).
Minimum income households per neighbourhood, compared to the
municipal average (17,9%) and related attractiveness of residential areas.
Characteristics of the
explaining the land
3. ZUIDAS AMSTERDAM: A PROJECT OF URBAN TRANSFORMATION
The Zuidas project, which developed on the south axis of Amsterdam (from which takes its name), has to be
considered the biggest and one of the most important and complex contemporary urban developments in the
The Zuidas is located in a strategic position, which is a crucial point for its development: it is next to
Amsterdam’s southern ring road and close to the international airport. For this reason the area is sometimes
referred to as Amsterdam’s ‘golden mile’, that is the country’s prime ofﬁce location. Before the development of
the project the area was a sort of transitional zone between two parts of the city (Zuid, built according to a plan
of the architect Berlage between 1920 and 1950, and Buitenveldert, a plan by urbanist van Eesteren, built in
the ﬁfties and sixties). The space between these two city was 'reserved' by several plans that were made
since Berlage's time for the infrastructure and a railway station.
A ﬁrst Master Plan for this area was approved in 1998, after ABN AMRO's decided to build its new
headquarters there. The plan’s aim was to achieve a balance among living and working activities.
In 2000, the ﬁrst Zuidas Vision Document was drawn up. This document describe the development of the
area from a starting location for international business into a deﬁned urban hub with a variety of functions and a
high quality degree of livability. This plan had to be reviewed quite often, due to dynamic nature of
developments in Zuidas. The project we are referring takes into consideration the the ﬁnal Zuidas Vision
Document that was drawn up in 2009 and approved by Amsterdam City Council on 9 September that year.
During the past few decades, a large number of new infrastructural investments in roads and railways have
resulted important not only for the accessibility to the area itself, but also for the whole infrastructural network of
the city. Nowadays the Zuidas is still a project under development. The project’s initiators always refer to
ﬂexibility as a crucial strategy for development, which seems especially necessary for a project with a building
period of about thirty years. The Zuidas cannot be explained according to the traditional deﬁnition of a spatially
contained and deﬁned in time transformation, it is instead a loose framework of various smaller projects and a
3.1 INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT
Zuidas location and the vision document
As we previously mentioned, the neighborhood of Zuidas has a strategic location. It is close to the city centre,
has an easy connection to the, Schiphol Airport and the east of the Netherlands. The accessibility from the city
and also form other part of the Netherlands is achieved by the great A10 motorway. For this reason, the
problem of congestion of major roads and public transportation is signiﬁcant. In order to ﬁnd an appropriate
solution for this problem, a number of infrastructural projects are currently being carried out, while others are in
the preparatory stage.
The vision document and the dock
The Vision Document for Zuidas, presented ﬁrstly in 2000, than in 2009 and approved in 2011, among a
number of strategic objectives, is extensively focused on infrastructural development. The ambitions of the
Vision Document are, among the achievement of a sustainable and leavable environment, the create and
efﬁcient but also responsible network, enhancing district accessibility but avoiding the creation of barriers.
The development of Zuidas networks are various and the aim is to develop the connection not only at local
and regional scale, but also at a larger scale. Zuidas is in fact a large and rapidly developing business district,
also known as the 'Financial Mile'. The idea is to provide a suitable net of infrastructure for Zuidas international
At a local scale, there will be an improvement of the tram line, the local metro, the cycle network and
pedestrian paths. The main investment of the transformation of the neighborhood is the “Dok” project, which is
an underground tunnel bundling of road and rail infrastructure. the purpose of this project is the removal of
physical barriers between Zuidas and other part of Amsterdam, the decrease of environmental pollution and
trafﬁc noise and the increase of space for trafﬁc.
The image is part of the
Vision Document for Zuidas
and represents the
alternative of the Dok
system for the junction of
the main roads in Zuidas
The north/south metro line
Another important project that is undergoing in Amsterdam and interests the area of Zuidas is the North/south
metro line. form 2017, this will run 9.7 kilometres from Buikslotermeer, in the north of Amsterdam, to Zuidas, in
the south. This neighborhood will host two stations on this metro line: Europaplein and Amsterdam Zuid. The
line will emerge above ground in the central reservation of the A10 orbital motorway between Europaplein
station and Amsterdam Zuid station.
Nevertheless our aim is to focus on those project that will have implications in the international sphere. From
this point of view the improvement of the Station Zuid certainly signiﬁcant. The station will be in the central core
of Zuidas, serving the district and the entire city, and will become the second main station of Amsterdam and it
is expected to be 5th busiest passenger station in the Netherlands, with a forecast of 75000 passengers per
It will be the junction node of various public transport modalities. Most transfers will be between metro and train
while at the adjacent urban street there will be bus stops, tram stops, taxi rank and the car rank.
Thank to the improvement of the Zuid/WTC Station, a number of international connections will be possible.
The idea is to make this station the reference point for international movements.
First of all, the connection to the Schiphol Airport, which is currently allowed by a railway line that takes around
8 minutes, will be improved by a faster and direct metro line form the station. Schiphol is Europe’s fourth
In addition, some connection of European scale will depart and arrive from Zuid/WTC Station. These are the
high-speed (HSL) services to Brussels and Paris, and the German high speed network, the ICE to Cologne
and Berlin, via Utrecht and Arnhem.
These projects are not ﬁnished so there is no feedback of the population regarding the quality of the
improvement this infrastructural layer in the neighborhood. On the other hand it is possible to see that these
plans are coherent with the overall economical and social development of Zuidas, the 'Financial Mile'. The idea
is also to enhance the role of Zuidas in the city of Amsterdam and on an international framework.
This map represents the improvement of tram and metro network in Zuidas compared to the existing situation.
3.2 ECONOMICAL DEVELOPMENT
Zuidas is divided into three main subareas. The ﬁrst, and most important one is the heart of the district, where
have place the World Trade Centre, ABN AMRO headquarters.
The other two clusters are located at the eastern and western edge of the district.
The eastern one, “Vivaldi”, lies next to the railway station RAI. Its buildings are older than the new development
of the district, except the new Ernst & Young’s headquarters by Norman Foster. The western subarea contains
newest buildings such as the Amsterdam law court and the ING House, and all the buildings are aligned in a
virtual north/south axis.
The architectural typology in Zuidas is strongly contemporary and realized in an impressively large scale. Most
of the ofﬁce buildings of the district were recently built: 35% of the buildings has been built after 2000.
Its excellent accessibility with all kinds of transport and the closeness to Schiphol airport invited many
companies to locate their headquarters and ofﬁces in the area, especially from ﬁnancial and business services
sectors. The companies which decide to create ofﬁces in Zuidas trade the highest rent rates of the
Netherlands for top quality accommodation. Furthermore, Zuidas includes more than 500 apartments, many
shops, restaurants, hotels and cafes.
The success of the district was mainly given by its primary meaning as an extension of the traditional ofﬁce
district, Oud Zuid. The most important ofﬁces located in the district found a new settling place in Zuidas, with
wider spaces and modern properties that they were missing in the old locations. As a side effect, Zuidas
started to attract also head ofﬁces and national branches of international companies, for a total of 600
companies, half of which have a global coverage. Companies from Japan, India, America (Google and
Accenture among the others), Russia have ofﬁces in the district. The inﬂow of tenants has been constantly
high: the long-term (in 10 years) average of 45,000 sqm per year of taken ofﬁces. Despite the 2008
economical crisis, from 2008 onwards, 125,000 sqm of new ofﬁce space has been sold, with the same rate
of vacancy of the previous years. This situation, especially due to the difﬁcult ofﬁce market condition, was in
countertrend with the rest of the country.
Sectors mostly present in the area
In terms of branches, the sector of ﬁnancial and business services takes up more than half of the number of
companies situated in the district. Law ﬁrms play a signiﬁcant role as well in Zuidas, especially about the size in
square meters they occupy, and the most important ﬁrms of the country. The public sector only occupies the
3% of the ofﬁce users in Zuidas, denoting that the business network binds the district.
Furthermore, companies rather relocate within the district of Zuidas instead of moving away to a new ofﬁce
location. The movement of companies from the old business centre to the new Zuidas will steadily decline
because most of the large-scale companies already made the step to Zuidas and now the users’ proﬁles of
both districts are diverging.
Only ﬁve out of the 55 buildings of Zuidas are owned by the companies which have ofﬁces there, 24 of them
are owned by institutional parties or companies which target institutional money and all the remaining ones are
owned by private investors who rent the ofﬁces to company users. Most private investors are from domestic
origin, but also German investors get a large share, and then US and French investors come third and fourth.
Many buildings in Zuidas are multi-tenant facilities, because they offer a lower vacancy risk. Anyhow
transactions in the district do not happen often: since 2008 only eight buildings changed their ownership.
The lease market
The leasing market in Zuidas is very active. In 2009 a total of 210,000 sqm was involved in transactions, 55%
of which newly occupied and 45% concerning lease renewals. 70% of these relating to less than 2,500 sqm
ofﬁce spaces and 20% of share calculated for more than 5,000 sqm transactions.
The 30% of these contracts were signed at WTC, since the amount of transactional square meters exceeds
34,000, and they were mostly concerning leases’ renewals, while all the other ofﬁces dealt mostly with new
Leasing prices signiﬁcantly vary in Zuidas, from 160€ per sqm a year for the oldest ofﬁce building in Vivaldi, to
380€ per sqm a year for some of the best ofﬁces in WTC. The average rent in 2009 was 301€ per sqm a
year. This gap can be easily synthesized with the closeness to the transportation hub.
Incentives are really important in the rent’s prices since the average granted incentive for 2009 in Zuidas is
17%, considering both renewals and new transactions, and they make difﬁcult to calculate the actual rent of a
building. In the Vivaldi area incentives exceed 30% of the contract’s worth, while the new lease contracts in the
central area have usually 20%.
New development projects
Since the 2008’s crisis no new building projects were started so, at the moment, only residential schemes are
planned to be realized in the next four years, in order to make vacancy fall very rapidly. The current vacancy at
Zuidas stands at 11%: only 3 mid-size buildings of more than 20 years old are empty, and need renovation.
Looking at 2018, 10 years after the 2008 crisis, where no 10 years-long leasings were stipulated, the
decreasing availability may become a major problem. The municipality of Amsterdam still contemplates the
creation of a dock area over the A10 motorway. This concept would bring all public transport and the A10
motorway underground, and ofﬁce buildings on top of them. Perhaps, in the further future, these ambitious
plans can be carried out and will create even higher economical strength in Zuidas.
3.3 ACTORS INVOLVED IN THE TRANSFORMATION
The development of the Zuidas started in the early 1990s. The municipality drafted a plan for the southern
area of the city. The project had to be carried on with the ﬁnancial participation by the central government and
a large role in providing infrastructural network for the private sector. In total 60% of the costs will be paid by the
privates who in return would receive development rights in the new area. At the beginning only a few
pioneering private investors were interested in exploiting investment opportunities in the new area, but later the
ambition to realize an international and competitive economic center were supported by stronger national
actors. At the same time the municipality of Amsterdam strongly focused on the economic and urban aspects
of the Zuidas, preferring Dok models. The ministry of transport also played a relevant role in the project,
considering the projects as an opportunity to expand the capacity of roads and railways. On the other hand
the ministry of spatial planning did not strongly support the plan, especially in the ﬁrst phases, because of the
small subsidy available to carry on new urban projects. Recently other governmental agencies, such as the
ministry of economic affairs, the ministry of ﬁnance and the provincial government started to get involved,
underlining the importance of the Zuidas for the national economy. The project did not provoke much
opposition and, although a number of public meeting to discuss the plan and its mixed-use conception were
organized, it did not attract much attention of the civil and social groups.
3.4 DECISION-MAKING SIGNIFICANT ELEMENTS
The historical economical center of Amsterdam, the canal belt, grew in the end of the 80’s outside its
boundaries, so the municipality had to choose a new area where new economical developments had to take
place. Amsterdam decided, taking other European harbour cities as an example, to use the IJ-bank as the
new economical center. The location seemed to be perfect. It was close to the central station and the city
center. Though, the municipality didn’t take the opinion of important actors in consideration. Quite soon it
became clear that the investors weren’t convinced about the location because of infrastructural problems,
building height regulations and the existing buildings which were present and expensive to re-use. Therefore,
big companies clearly preferred an empty plot to built their new headquarters upon.
After the fusion between ABN and AMRO, a new headquarter was required. The company choose the plot in
the Zuidas where they wanted to built it, avoiding the inevitable opposition of the community if they built high-
rise buildings in the core of the city. The municipality had to agree with the terms of condition of the ABN-
AMRO, because they were afraid of fact that the company would choose an other city to go to.
Amsterdam learnt from the mistakes made in the IJ-bank project. Regarding the Zuidas the municipality works
together more intensively with important private actors and is often forced to do so. Therefore, the municipality
became, instead of a leading institute, a party that had to follow and agree with the wishes of multinationals.
3.5 POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS TO THE CRITICAL ISSUES
According to Stan Majoor (assistant professor at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences of the
University of Amsterdam, research center AISSR (Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research) and
member of the research group: Planning, Institutions and Transforming Spaces), this increasing cooperation
between the municipality and investors is a positive change. Though he underlines that it’s important for private
actors to stimulate the improvement of the livelihood within the area, a problem which could be solved using a
higher degree of participation of decision making by the population. The goal of the Zuidas is not only creating
a concentrated district deﬁned by multinationals located in skyscrapers, but it also has to become a new
important residential area. This is why improving the livelihood in the Zuidas becomes a signiﬁcant element in
succeeding for the project.
Though, realizing this goal seems difﬁcult. Companies and developers agree with improving the livelihood, but if
actions need to be made, none of them wants to get involved. For example, all actors are in favor of having
nice lunchrooms in the surroundings, but none of them are willing to make the ground ﬂoor of their buildings
available for these purposes. An other situation to explain this issue is that, with the presence of wanted small
creative shops, the attractiveness will increase. Though, again, companies aren’t willing to rent the needed
spaces for a lower price.
Stan Majoor has a solution for this problem, saying that Amsterdam could play an important role in these
developments. He notes that the municipality should stimulate companies to work on increasing the livelihood,
for example with the use of bonuses and compromises.
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