Typing away in our new Amsterdam apartment, the phrase sounds foreign. After three weeks of unpacking, and despite a series of home improvement setbacks (concrete walls-4, drill-0), it starts to feel pretty cozy around here.
With limited time, and a pressing need to find SOMEWHERE to live, we chose the best option for our circumstances–a new building in a wildly mixed neighborhood called the Indische Buurt (more on the neighborhood in later posts).
Coming from Miami Beach, the building’s monolithic and, seemingly boring brick-brown architecture initially made little impact on me. I even shrugged indifferently at the enclosed community courtyard the first time I visited.
One of the “father’s of modern Dutch architecture”, Hendrik Petrus Berlage, inspired the architectural design of our new building. A look at the Beurs Van Berlage (below) one of Berlage’s most famous buildings in Amsterdam, helped me understand the historical reference.
After 10 years in Miami, I was most surprised by the mission statement of the Alliantie, our building’s developer. The Alliantie focuses on urban renewal and reinvests all development profits to create neighborhoods with social and economic balance. In our building, the Alliantie requires that a third of the inhabitants buy their apartments, another third are renters and the remaining apartments are allocated to social housing for those with special needs and disabilities.
Could such a policy change the way a society interacts? I’m not enough of a idealist to think so. But by creating a beautiful, well thought-out building, the Alliantie attracted inhabitants reflective of larger Amsterdam and put them together in a micro-community.
The central courtyard and garden-facing balconies make it impossible not to know and interact with your neighbors, regardless of their age, life stage, socio-economic level or nationality–which is awesome news for any newly arrived, foreign, stay-at-home parent craving adult interaction!
Today, I just might borrow a cup of sugar from my neighbors. I’ll thank an urban planner/architect on my way.