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All the citymakers recognized the famous Inntelhotel with the green houses. They didn’t know it was a image of Zaandam.
The citymakers from Amsterdam, Budapest, Arlon,Lviiv, Warsaw, Haarlem, Almere, Brusels, Ljubljana, Sofia, Talinn, Vilnius, Lisbon and Zaanstad started the visit in the cityhall.
Hans Bosma introduced us to the area with the story of the importance of water. ‘We are 1,5 m below sea leveI so you have to be inventive to work on solutions. It has a direct relation with the mentality of cooperation. Because of the soft ground and because there was a lot of wood most buildings in the past were built of wood. Zaanstreek is famous for the mills. It is the oldest industrial area in Europe, because the mills made oil, paint, saw wood, flavor, etc.
Alderman Rita Visscher-Noordzij: ‘Active citizenship is the aim which requires active government. Municipality changes from leader to facilitator. Zaanstad is an independent municipality, it is not a part of Amsterdam.’
Architect Sjoerd Soeters will walk with us through the city.
‘Zaanstad had no walls, it did not have a proper city character. There was no centre, the small villages were built alongside the river De Zaan. It was a wetland of the river. It had an early industry: it converted horizontal power of wind to vertical power.
In one period 1000 windmills were standing along the Zaan river. In 17th century Amsterdam was New York of Europe. It had a close connection with Zaandam, where they saw the wood for the big ships. The impressionist painter Claude Monet came tot Zaandam to make 25 paintings.
Sjoerd Soeters show how the piazza of the city looked like – typical landscape of car oriented city with blurred public spaces. When invited to Zaanstad he asked to demolish everything of that.
Zaanstad is a complex of 8 villages who were not ready to cooperate. Later it was accepted that Zaandam would become the center of Zaanstad. He brought back the water into the city centre which was rebuilt in a compact way, also hiding the ugly earlier buildings, some of which had to be kept.
Streets were made much narrower than it was in the 1960s: instead of 30-40 meter wide streets now 8 meter wide streets were built with higher buildings on both sides: people are forced to get eyecontact with eachother!
What types of new buildings did we need? ‘Zaanstad can only compete with other places if using its own language, so the new buildings should reflect the Zaanstreek heritage. The image of Zaanstad (built on traditional forms) is now so famous that the hotel is always fully booked.
A picture from before and after: it is an amazing difference, a complete change within 15 years! Water pumped up to 9 m height and an artificial canal has been created with waterfalls! Town hall above the previous dull bus station. Wedding tower above the railway station: two rings separately, then together with a little sperma.
Soeters: ‘never take architecture too serious – it can be playfull, joyfull.’
Decisive was the financial support of the province which was based on the digging of the canal. Local shopkeepers were fiercely against the rebuilding of the city centre. But the leadership used salami tactic, dividing decision into small pieces, following each other. If no decision, €12 million would have gone lost.
Visit to Fietsenpakhuis (bicycle warehouse) with Johan Krol and Steven Brunsmann of Nunc Architects.
A new building, built in the style of an old warehouse for wood. The city invested € 800 th to create a space for bikes – it is good for people to come to the city centre and to be able to put their bikes for free . In the long run the saving in roads and car parking can even return the investment indirectly.
Management: long term unemployed people manage it, they are also trained to repair the bikes. The building is sustainable in many aspects (reusable materials which can be disassembled, the space can be enlarged or even turned into other functions)
Next project: large bike parking on the other end of the railway station. Three story high spiral road but also staircase shortcuts. It is a very expensive project, financed by many layers of government (local, province, metropolitan) and also some other private developers. The overpass will help to create the new link to the western part of the city (very much cut by the railway line) where large housing extensions are planned – Zaanstad will participate with 20 th new units in the task to build 300 th new unit in the Amsterdam functional urban area.
Lunch at the Noorderkerk, the daily meetingpoint for refugees. Zaandam, protestan church – discussion about refugees
Brilliant moderated by Hans Bosma!
1) The photographer of our group came Oct 2015 by airplane to Brussels, then to Zaandam. Now he has got a work permit (employed by the private firm which designed the bike place), which is exceptional…
To come by airplane would not be more expensive than you have to pay to smugglers but with Syrian passport, without visa, much additional money has to pay to the airport security to let you leave the country (and it is never sure that you will be let in when you arrive…)
2) Our cook – a delightful meal! – he came from Syria, through Hungary, his aim was to come NL. 15 Sept 2015 he was caught in HU. Het stayed in prison for 2 months, then he was released (the guard was very friendly: ‘you can go, just leave the key’). He arrived to Utrecht by taxi, since then he was sent from camp to camp…
He is a graduated cook, worked for Sheraton, etc. He cooks here in the Church every Friday. He would like to get first residential then work permit (takes 3-5 years), study Dutch, open catering company…
If the war would end tomorrow, 90% of refugees would go back to Syria but there is no hope for that. Poor people could not leave the country, many stay in camps in nearby countries, in camps where the life is totally inhuman.
3) Kees van der Pol (from the protestant church) – many people started to help the church in dealing with the 1600 refugees who came to Zaanstad… Early October the first problem was to get clothes. People from 40-50 km distance came to help the refugees. Refugees wanted to learn Dutch but the national law did not allow it. The church started to give Dutch lessons to them. The mayor lady agreed to give language lessons. In early times within a week refugees got some permission tot stay, nowadays it takes 15 months before a refugee get a permit.
He explained how local people got step by step familiar with refugees, even the most reserved persons are becoming happy when the refugees started to say good morning in Dutch.
4) Sarah Angenent, a young volunteer – she is atheist. She brought her guitar as donation and since then she got addicted to help refugees, it is such a rewarding task, it is so good to help others. if everyone would do it, all refugees would have better life. The cinema opened once a week, an online group is doing transfers if the volunteers send a message for any reason. ‘It is a lot of fun’.
This is a tent camp, one of the worst in NL. It will be shut down and refugees will be transferred to different places. Refugees said: the camp is the worst, the city is the best…
Since half a year refugees became integrated so the volunteers started to lobby to get their refugees back to Zaandam. After many difficulties this has been accepted and many refugees will get the permission to come back to Zaandam, start their new life here.
5) Sarah Vermoolen local person, and one of the volunteers. She organized an event for refugees and local people to meet . 1001 Dream – to create link between Dutch who do not know the refugees and have prejudices… Big dancing event was organized, 100 paying spectators for € 25 ticket… 150 refugees were seated together with the spectators… everyone had to talk to each other. If you are nice to someone you will get it back! People can profit so much from helping the refugees.
The city council accepted the help of the volunteers. The national government forbid to deal well with the refugees but the municipality helped much more whole heartedly.
Lithuania: abstract stories make people afraid – real stories were needed…
Portugal: “The government increased the quota to double, 5000, but only 50 refugees arrived so far.’
The media is a devil – in only a few countries real stories are allowed to reach the media. The guy who was imprisoned in Hungary: he likes to talk to people who hate refugees and would like to ask them: why? Story about his Dutch friend who invited him for tennis with two of his friends (who turned out later to be among those who hate refugees) – personal discussions started after tennis… He does not blame countries but politicians.
Quota system would be difficult for refugees to accept… how it comes that I have to go to Hungary while my friend can go to Britain… or I have to go to Norway but I hate cold…
6) How to keep up the positive feelings of 500 volunteers after all the refugees are taken away from the city? Over five hundred people volunteered to help to shelter 1600 refugees. A question for the city is now: how do we activate those volunteers even more and inspire them to work on other social tasks as well?
Organize another festival, start to build housing with them (Freiburg case) .
Hans Bosma: the refugees can become the new city makers. And changes can be initiated also from below, against the will of national governments!
Visit to the Juliana building. Former school, rented out to different small entrepreneurs
People from the area rent small offices so they can work close by home. The former school was abandoned for ten years. Now it is a centre in the neighbourhood where you can repair your bike, follow lessons, yoga or doing your own business.
The prices are relatively low. You can grow in the building if you need more space. but if your company doesn’t work enough you can easily quit your contract. Policy is that it always has to be a mix of companies so they don’t have to compete with each other. Sometimes they work together.
Communication company Counter Creatives works on solutions to give people a clear image and a strategy. 12 people work there: mostly self employed
Dinner at de Fabriek
This is the place from Platform Zaan. Eight people organize meetings every first Monday of the month. They meet regularly to talk about local issues.