ACCESS NL > Features > Dutch Manhattan
2023-04-01 | By Sandra Silva | Photo by Sandra Silva
Almere is like an open-air museum of contemporary architecture, where visitors are spoiled with stunning visual lines and geometric forms at every corner.
Almere, the newest city in the Netherlands, located in the Flevopolder–is the largest artificial polder (a section of land reclaimed from water and protected by dikes) in the world– in the youngest province of the country: Flevoland.
Almere Haven was the first part of the city to be created with residents receiving house keys in November 1976. Almere Stad–dating from the 1980’s–came next.
Unlike the functional architecture of Almere Haven–low houses organised to promote social contact between neighbours–Almere Stad’s architecture brought a striking modern allure.
Initial designs for Almere Stad took inspiration from foreign cities: the Stadhuisplein–where City Hall and the New Library are located–from St. Marks’ Square in Venice, whereas the greenery and scenic views of Lake Weerwater were inspired by the central lakes of Hamburg.
World-famous Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas was the maestro of the urban masterplan that brought awarded international architects together to make Almere the vibrant city it is today: Christian de Portzamparc (France); SANAA (Japan); William Alsop (UK); Sir David Chipperfield (UK) and Gigon & Guyer Architekten (Switzerland).
The new city centre of Almere Stad was built between 1994 and 2007. In this part of the city, the ground level of Almere Stad rose–becoming higher than the surrounding polder–and ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ areas emerged. The ‘upper’ brought houses, shopping streets, and restaurants–the ‘lower’ parking garages, roads, buses, and cycle lanes. The split made the ‘upper’ area safe for everyone–especially children and the elderly–to navigate.
Almere Citadel–inspired by medieval cities and castles–was designed by Portzamparc and the building known as Het Kanteel has echoes of a protective tower, offering views of the surrounding landscape and Lake Weerwater. Atop the Citadel, townhouses are surrounded by gardens and divided into areas connected by pedestrian bridges. Tranquillity prevails here in contrast with the hustle and bustle of the streets below.
Another iconic building in Almere Stad is the Smaragd (Emerald)–designed by Gigon & Guyer Architekten–which is breathtaking in green, blue, and orange. From the higher apartments, the residents can enjoy exquisite views of Lake Weerwater and the Esplanade (Square), recently refurbished with green fields, a water ladder, beach, and new restaurant. At the Esplanade, one can also admire the Leonardo Hotel–part of the Urban Entertainment Centre designed by William Alsop–and the buildings: ‘The City’ and ‘The Lakeside’.
Like a ship navigating serene seas, the theatre and cultural centre Kunstlinie stands calm and proud on the shore of Lake Weerwater. Designed by SANAA, Kunstlinie was inaugurated by former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in 2007. The transparency created by the glass walls of Kunstlinie creates a mirror-effect of the lake, thus enlarging the spectator view of the surroundings.
The skyline of Almere looks very much like Manhattan. From Lake Weerwater, one can spot the elevated part of the city centre, the Side-by-Side and Silverline towers, the Esplanade, and the iconic residential building The Wave.
This unique housing complex in clad in zinc has a distinctive bulge in the façade along the lake, which resembles a wave. The building was designed by Dutch architect René van Zuuk–who happens to live in Almere. Van Zuuk also designed a magnificent bridge which connects the most modern part of the city centre with the oldest neighbourhood of Almere Stad: Stedenwijk. Looking at the bridge’s “masts” and the cables they boast, it almost feels like being on a boat and sailing back in time–especially when looking along the Olstgracht canal where those first residents of Almere Stad received their house keys back in 1980. Who could have imagined then how the city would look almost 50 years on.
Did you know?
Almere city centre won the Best City Centre Award 2017–2019.
Want to explore more Dutch cities? Check this article about Zwolle.
About the author
Sandra Silva is a Portuguese teacher and city guide living in Almere who is passionate about photography, travel, art, history, and storytelling.
www.sandrastours.nl | @sandrastoursnl