Walking…*

The Bijlmer

… in the Bijlmer

In April 2013 Katharina Rohde was invited to host a research stroll in Amsterdam De Bijlmer for creative investigators, users and makers of residential architecture and city planning.

10-15 visitors joined the Bijlmer walkabout on April 7th 2013 amongst those architects, artists and journalists/researchers. Some had been to the area before and had some knowledge on the Bijlmer, others arrived to the neighborhood for the first time.

The walkabout was aiming to approach the neighborhood without trapping into stigmatization and therefore no facts and figures were provided initially and also the Bijlmer experts amongst the group were asked to keep informations to themselves. The idea was to focus on our perception rather than our pre-formed expectation.

We started at Sisters Headquarter on a sunshiny day and were pleasantly surprised with the regenerations that had been done to some of the blocks and houses. We perceived a friendly and highly diverse neighborhood, some cultural characteristics immediately popped into our eyes and made us realize the difficulties of not moving into stigmatization.

With the sun disappearing we walked into the Bijlmer area that had not undergone major regeneration. Our perceptions immediately changed, maybe due to the grey superblocks or the hardly used public spaces that made the neighborhood appear empty. In this part of the Bijlmer residents seemed not really to be concerned with the built environment they live in. Suddenly we wondered how far the myth of failure of the modernist dream had become reality.

Our walkabout concluded with a visit to a The Bijlmer believer, a sports and recreational teacher that had moved to the area in the 1970ties. Her manifold stories and memories of the neighborhood and its people plus the really amazing view from her flat over the whole area, convinced us that the Bijlmer is worth experiencing and cannot be thrown into a pigeonhole.

In the end, we did have some facts .-)
The CIAM-inspired housing estate to the South-East of the city was presented to the public in 1965. The Bijlmer was built according to principals of modernist design of repetitive and uniform Superblocks. Inaugurated with great enthusiasm, the Bijlmer soon received a bad reputation. A severe lack of everyday amenities led to little occupation and flats therefore remained empty. Starting in the 1970s the estate became famous for crime and poverty. The Bijlmer soon turned from utopia into dystopia. In the early 1990s the municipality and housing corporations began a large-scale regeneration to improve the Bijlmer’s urban fabric.

The Bijlmer´s greatest challenges up to today is firstly its stigmatization that even the regeneration could not improve. Like many other modernist housing estates in the West, the neighborhood is marked with crime, poverty and drug dealing. Secondly the Bijlmer faces a high influx rate, one sixth of the residents move out every year and therefore very little potential for community relations to grow is given.

more about the Bijlmer: http://failedarchitecture.com/2013/04/the-story-behind-the-failure-revisioning-amsterdam-bijlmermeer/

* Walking… is a continous series of experiencing cities and neighborhoods by foot focussing on sensory sensations and perceptions by Katharina Rohde.

Walking in the Bijlmer was made possible due to the kind invitation from Sister. http://www.sisterfromanothermister.sr/