Panamakade is one of the many street names on a residential ‘islands’ of Amsterdam (this has been chosen over the island name just because it sounded better), this one is on Sporenburg, which is part of Amsterdam-Oost (East). In relation to the more well known part of the city, it is a few extra tram rides away from Centraal Station to the east. The area of Sporenburg is almost solely used for residential housing, with some offices and shops dispersed between them.
In this post we’ll explore a little bit of how this area, and a lot of similar areas in Amsterdam are being developed from what they were previously. As well as how these designs are being thought out to provide for residents.
Sporenburg and Panamakade were originally part of the river IJ. The land was built during the height of the industrial revolution for the use of railway storage. The island’s name comes from Spoor (rail) and Burg (borough), as well as the street name of Panamakade being Panama Quay. Many of the industrial areas not just in Amsterdam but in other large cities are being redeveloped for residences or commercial areas, following a shift in labour to cheaper areas of the world.
Plan & Development
Following this industrial change, and particularly in Amsterdam as one of Europe’s transport hubs, these areas of high efficiency slowed their input and output in favour of cheaper countries. The industrial facilities began to degrade and eventually become derelict. The city of Amsterdam decided to change these areas into what was being demanded by the inhabitants.
In the mid 1980s, many architects were asked to provide plans of how they would redevelop the Sporenburg and Borneo-Eiland areas. Eventually the Rotterdam based international firm of West8 Architects were chosen to restructure the two islands, with construction starting in 1992. West8 had a goal of incorporating nature and open space as well as the typical Dutch minimalism seen in contemporary Amsterdam.
Just over 2000 residences were planned on the Borneo and Sporenburg islands, mixed in with many areas of green space and artistic pieces. The two islands are joined by two large but minimal bridges at both ends. In contrast to many other residential areas of the city, these two bridges promote community between them. Whether they are used or not, the opportunity for travel is there, as well as the chance to view the city from a different angle when walking across the bridges.
Some residents were given the opportunity to control some of the internals of their houses, as long as it fitted the strict size constrictions that each residence had. Each house was of a similar size, in an almost identical placement along the many rows of the island. Despite this, the character of the residents are even more evident through a change in from a building identical to the next.
Originally my main attractions to this housing estate were a building called ‘The Whale’ and one of the aforementioned bridges connecting two quays. Contrasting my original motives and to now writing the finished piece on Panamakade, it is the sense of community throughout that I will remember this visit for. What seemed like a very typical contemporary Dutch set of streets, full of minimalism and seeming almost without character, now shows completely the opposite.
The minimal nature of the buildings allows even more character to be shown off by the residents, whether that be in the possessions they own, how they have decorated their houses or the various art pieces about the area. The green spaces and open areas of Sporenburg provide a welcome change from identical house after house, giving the land a sense of character, however also a very functional use for the residents. By constructing a fully functional set of buildings, those who live in them have a much more prominent effect on the smaller details.