Sustainable Cities™

Ijburg: City of islands

The development of Ijburg by Amsterdam, Holland, is based on the struggle to provide new urban development amidst a swathe of conflicting conditions; the demand for new housing close to Amsterdam city centre, the lack of available land to build on, and the necessity to retain water surface area and flood water volume in Lake Ijssel.

Mangfoldige huse i Ijburg. Venligst udlånt af © 2008.

There is a long tradition in Amsterdam and throughout the Netherlands for building and living on water. For centuries large parts of Lake Ijssel to the east of Amsterdam have been filled with sand to prepare for new urban development. In 1965 Van den Broek and Bakema proposed the Pampus plan; an urban extension for Amsterdam stretching along its eastern harbour in the form of a linear city. The plan appeared as an alternative to the traditional separation of city and landscape and instead attempted to integrate the two.

It wasn't until forty years later that the vision of Pampus was revived. This time, the form of the plan was less based on lines of new infrastructure and more on the existing context of nature and water. In response to opposition to built development and concerns for the resultant loss in valuable ecology, the masterplan launched in 1996 and drawn up by Palmbout Urban Landscapes, does not dyke in and reclaim the Ijmeer but instead proposes a city model built on a loose arrangement of archipelagoes. The results is a diverse set of water edge conditions; some are beaches and shorelines which function like those of a natural lake, whilst others take on the character of a hard-surfaced urban harbour.

Plan of Ijburg and Ijburg II. Courtesy of Brussels Europe Liaison Office (BELO).

Ijburg is made up of eight islands, each with its own character. Forming part of phase 1, Haveneiland and Rieteiland are the most urban, with high density buildings, quayside promenades and facades dropping directly to the water's surface. In contrast, Buiteneiland and Middeneiland in Ijburg II take on a more loose-fit, organic feel, with softer waterside gardens leading to more gradual tapered coastlines.

When The Council of State rejected the zoning plan for Ijburg II, McDonough Partners were invited to explore what and how development could proceed without causing negative environmental impacts to Lake Ijmeer. Their 'Sustainable Dashboard' positions the intended objectives of Ijburg I against the outcomes of environmental performance. This is measured according to a range of today's sustainable standards; level 1; Code / Base case, level 2; Eco-Efficient /Best Practice, level 3; Eco-Effective, level 4; Cradle to Cradle. The criteria being assessed are divided into subcategories of energy, mobility, water cycle, ecology, solid waste and community. McDonough and Partners' have articulated a new set of development principles to enable Ijburg II to operate as an urban ecosystem; powered by solar energy, planned to encourage diversity, accommodating change and eliminating waste. 

"[With floating homes] you basically create undeveloped land exactly where you need to build most" Marion Sprenkeler, spokeswoman for ABC Arkenbouw, developing floating homes in IJburg, Amsterdam, and Leidsche Rijn, Utrecht.

Mixed aesthetics, mixed occupancy

The island of Steigereiland combines high density, high rise apartments, medium density four-storey townhouses, two-storey terraces and houseboats. There are also a number of self commissioned dwellings. Each urban block is held by a design framework but within this, there is a high degree of variation with regards to façade arrangement and the choice of colours and materials used.

Floating houses

Due to a lack of available land next to Amsterdam city and in response to future flood risks from rising water levels, Ijburg is becoming a fertile test-bed for floating homes. These are constructed on concrete bases and are prefabricated which allows for customized homes. Houseboats can change and adapt to future conditions since they plug on to the mains supply of water, heat, and electricity via floating jetties but can always be detached, moved and plugged on elsewhere. 

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014