Nicolaas Ruychaverstraat Amsterdam

The assignment: Create a temporary design for a big sidewalk near a high rise building in Amsterdam Geuzenveld involving the residents’ input. I received this commission for the municipality of Amsterdam through De Gezonde Stad, an organisation for sustainable bottom up projects in the city. The Nicolaas Ruychaverstraat with its fully paved sidewalk offered a great opportunity to make the city a bit greener and give the residents a pleasant place to experience. However, visiting the street and its surroundings and collecting the residents’ input, the bottlenecks became very clear as well.

Because of the poor lighting in the street and underpass and the mainly closed off plinth with little activity, the sidewalk feels rather unsafe. There are very few entrances/exits on the ground level and the sidewalk faces a lot of blind walls, which results in little social control, especially at night. I really wanted to address these issues in my urban landscape design.

Bringing greenery into a location is a great way to soften the overall feeling of an area predominantly consisting of stone and concrete. In this case, it can also be a resource to direct the pedestrians in their use of the sidewalk, I thought. The walkway is 9 m. wide on this site. Therein lies an opportunity to narrow down the actual walking area by creating borders of low ornamental grasses on either side, which direct pedestrians to the middle of the sidewalk for a better overview. Simultaneously the design discourages other potential users, like bikers or motorcycles. The borders also serve as a way to create different areas for a more diverse use of the space. The design includes an area for the existing coffee house, for table tennis and for a small kitchen garden to be used by the residents of the Geuzennest. Hopefully these activities designed for everybody to join create a renewed feeling of ownership of the public space.

Where more activity is stimulated the seating options should be improved as well. In the middle of the street, where the (now better lit) underpass is situated, I created two raised beds with sun loving plants and benches on the outersides. To avoid loitering, only two or three people can sit on them. Finally I added shrubs and trees in reusable planters placed in the grass borders. They add a bit of much needed shade in this south facing street and they add height to balance out all the tall buildings in the area. And not to forget, imagine the new vista from the seating area, they bring beauty!

With this design I envision a rather unsafe sidewalk turned into a lively urban park everybody in the neighbourhood can call their own.

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