The Saint Sebastian Chapel in the Oude Kerk, the oldest building in Amsterdam, was temporarily transformed into a place for interviews and debate on the future of the historic Amsterdam city centre during the summer of 2019, organized by professor on Urban and Regional Planning Zef Hemel. The information collected in this way forms the basis for a series of advice for the Mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, who wants to formulate answers to urgent problems – such as the overcrowded city center, nuisance from tourism, commercialization of public space and the moving out of residents.


HOH Architecten created the scenograpy and developed three types of maps of the city center as a stimulus for the discussions and research. A map appears to be neutral at first, but eventually, it hides more than it shows. It is a filter to look at reality.


The first map shows the historic city center related to all the other centers in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Region as ‘galaxy of stars’ on a high wall in the chapel. The stars of the MRA include: Buikslotermeerplein (Amsterdam), Osdorpplein (Amsterdam), Oostpoort (Amsterdam), Gelderlandplein (Amsterdam), Amsterdamse Poort (Amsterdam), Eggert (Purmerend), Breestraat (Beverwijk), Stadscentrum (Velsen), Inverdam (Zaandam), Binnenstad (Haarlem), Schiphol Plaza, Winkelstad (Hoofddorp), De Symphonie (Nieuw-Vennep), Stadshart (Amstelveen), Binnenstad (Hilversum), Centrum (Bussum), Hart van Huizen (Huizen), Citymall (Almere), Winkelcentrum (Almere Buiten), Lelycentre (Lelystad), Batavia Stad (Lelystad).


A second map, inspired by a monstrance, shows the programmatic interaction between the centre and the periphery of the city.


A third map shows the city center as a ‘layered city’ that is unraveled in ten different layers, representing ten different perspectives for looking at the city. Each layer offers the opportunity to act and work from one of those perspectives: The Social City (property housing associations), The Municipal City (municipal property), The City of Quays and Bridges (emergency measures on quays and bridges), The Residential City (houses, appartments, care homes, homeless shelters), The City of the Night (disco’s, party centres, coffee shops, dance clubs, bars, brothels, casino’s, gas pumps, night shops, etc.), The Biodiverse City (breeding grounds swallows), The Small City (neighbourhoods), The Welcoming City (theaters, restaurants, hotels, churches, museums, cafés, casinos, synagogues, mosques, etc.), The Shopping City (shopping malls, smartshops, souvenir shops, sex shops, cheese shops), The Working City (offices, multitenant buildings, government offices).


After a month of conversations in the church, the layered map was carried in an event resembling a procession by students from the Oude Kerk to the town hall, where it now stands in the mayor’s office. The research resulted in the publication ‘ A new historic city center – Vision of the city center of Amsterdam 2040’.



Photography: Lex Banning, HOH Architecten