Creating an alternative masterplan for Overhoeks in Amsterdam Noord
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
6 Sessions with 200 Participants
The urban plan for Overhoeks, 20 hectares of the new urban center of Amsterdam, is on hold since the fiscal crisis of 2010. We created this game to simulate alternative scenarios for its development, proposing that small and medium size enterprises could collectively replace the giant investors who stopped short of taking risks, leaving this area frozen. Could multiple stakeholders develop the site organically replacing the halted corporation-dependent blueprint?
Are the 70.000m2 of new office space, as suggested by the old plan, still desirable after the crash? How could 200.000m2 of housing best be distributed and built?
In December 2010, our team was briefed by the director of Tolhuistuin about this urban challenge. After interviewing over 20 local stakeholders, we mapped the interests of 160 potential participants. The majority of these stakeholders joined in one of the four game sessions held in October 2011.
In 2012, a respected Parisian think-tank, La Fabrique de la Cité, requested two new sessions of Play Noord to learn the method. This helped us to reconnect to some of the previous players as well as engaging new ones in re-envisioning the future of Overhoeks.
The introduction of such an innovative method into an ongoing legal planning process was a radical step. And it delivered results. By 2014, the legal plan was altered. An incremental development strategy was internalized by Project Bureau Noordwaarts. The game proposed a variety of other outcomes which still have traction:
Integrated Program replaced the mono-functional Urban Plan
Players agreed to convert half of the 70.000m2 of new office space mandated by the existing plan into affordable studios for creatives in the first phases of the game. Through the process of playing, these spaces were transformed into other alternatives as the land gained value, such as tourism or work and living mixed development. The conclusion? Not a fixed typology set in a plan, but rather acknowledging the strategic value of using the empty land and allowing it to change in use as interest in it increases. This could be a model to re-develop the empty Shell sites in Overhoeks, which have already seen a series of creative spaces take over part of the Shell Lab.
Organizing the construction of 200,000m2 of housing is a challenge, and more so for small and medium-scale investors. But Play Noord found some answers. Players representing investors and collectives joined forces with entrepreneurs to realize the big housing task in the game by integrating retail, offices and leisure.
The New Activist
Play Noord hosted an extensive debate on the possible roles of a ‘New Activist.’ Could the activist initiate developments instead of spearheading resistance to it? Can 'action on the ground' be redefined as bricks, mortar and debate rather than picketing fences and rallies?