De Ceuvel is one of the most innovative urban developments in Europe. It is a unique workplace in Amsterdam as well as a public space that is accessible to all.
The space at De Ceuvel started as a polluted plot of land, a former shipyard, in Amsterdam North. In 2012, a successful proposal enabled the plot to be used for ten years by a team of businesses with expertise in the fields of architecture, urbanism and sustainability. Since then, the team have transformed the land into an eco-hub for creative and social enterprises. Nearly all the buildings are houseboats which have been taken out of the water and placed on land. Inside these houseboats are the offices of some of the local businesses amongst other initiatives such as a bed and breakfast.
What makes De Ceuvel truly innovative is that it’s a community-driven space. There is a constant stream of events which foster local identity and awareness on crucial issues such as sustainability. These events range from concerts to film screenings to small workshops which often take place inside its waterside café and bar. There are regular volunteering days where the community is invited to help brainstorm ideas on how to make the space more inviting and sustainable. As clean technologies are used for managing water, energy, sanitation, and food production at De Ceuvel, workshops are provided for those interested in learning more about this aspect of the space. There are also unofficial events which attract many, such as the great opportunity to go swimming in their own mini harbour. As a result, the innovative aspects of De Ceuvel attract hundreds of visitors every week.
When it comes to fostering a locally grounded identity and accessibility to all, both De Ceuvel and La Marina share things in common. Both of these public spaces apply a human-orientated approach to ensure that their space is open to all. In the case of La Marina, there are numerous sustainable, inclusive and dynamic public spaces within the historic harbour. Vacant spaces are re-used for a wide variety of cultural events, most of which are free. A current example is an outdoor exhibition by Antoni Miró which is inspired by drawings of popular Greek ceramics. Furthermore, La Marina employs a participatory design process, which is reflected in a new skatepark that will be finished this year. For this skatepark, an ideas competition was launched alongside workshops which enabled the community to participate in defining what type of public space this would be.
Both De Ceuvel and La Marina have reached out to create a connection with the city in order to enable citizens from the neighbourhood to come together and enjoy the public space. This type of innovation comes about through generating new ideas that are relevant to their social, economic and cultural context. This is achieved through creating open, accessible and inclusive public space with a people-centered approach. Foremost, this is what innovative public space is and should always be about, the people.