2 February 2023 News

The bridges of Amsterdam for the future

Amsterdam has about 1800 bridges. Many of these were never intended for the heavy traffic that crosses them today. One option to save the bridges is to close them to car traffic. But how do you explain that to the residents of Amsterdam? And what do you do with that freed-up space? What if Lab, in collaboration with the innovation team of Amsterdam municipality’s programme Bridges & Quay Walls (PBK), selected and paired social designer Arjen Heus with spatial designers Ivanka Bakker and Florian Eckardt. Curious about the concept this team developed in the lab? Read it here!

Participation is key

Arjen, Ivanka and Florian called on Amsterdam residents to participate, to design not for, but with them. That process yielded very valuable input, with a preference for social activity and a focus on lighting and greenery.

They developed a recognisable identity with three concepts that are modular, combinable, sustainable and low-maintenance. In these, they put the voice and character of Amsterdam at the centre. For instance, the colours and (residual) materials such as natural stone, sliding wood and steel are in keeping with the Amsterdam streetscape.

Modular concepts

The concepts of Living Room, Stories and Modular Sitting & Playing and the resulting designs can be implemented in varying compositions. On the enclosed bridges, this creates free spaces with easy chairs, stages for expression, lanterns, plants, quotes and story-frames. The modular backbone separates bicycle traffic and the residential area. It creates surprising new places to meet, rest or play and discover the city with its diversity and stories.

The concepts have been received with enthusiasm by colleagues from different disciplines, these designs paint a picture of what the future could look like. We are now entering the discussion on whether it is possible to test this in practice.

Andreas den Dekker (Innovation advisor PBK at the municipality of Amsterdam)

Last but not least, when each new bridge is implemented, the modules of the concepts can be chosen by the neighbourhood. Because the voice of Amsterdam, it matters!

The designers, innovation advisors PBK and Lab Manager

For me, this project is a textbook example of participatory research as it is meant to be. Getting to the ultimate truth in consultation with a very diverse mix of residents, entrepreneurs, civil servants and creatives. The fact that the municipality is also determined for implementation shows how widely supported and thought through the concepts are.

Arjen Heus (Social Designer at PLYGRND.city)