Gijsbrecht van Aemstelpark

Noordzijde Van Nijenrodeweg e.o.
Wim Boer
Gemeente Amsterdam
Groen, Leisure, Openbare ruimte

Modernistic park in ‘garden-city’ Buitenveldert

Gijsbrecht van Aemstelpark is a city park and is a green connection between the Amsterdamse Bos and the Amstelscheg. It is the green axis of Buitenveldert, a district which itself is regarded as a ‘garden suburb’. With its length of 2100 metres, the park is longer than Vondelpark but is considerably less well used.

In 1958, work began on the construction of Buitenveldert in accordance with guidelines laid down in the famous General Expansion Plan of 1934, drawn up by Amsterdam’s department of city development. The result was a spacious, rectangular district with an abundance of green space and connecting water features. In 1958, a competition was organized for the central park zone, the future Gijsbrecht van Aemstelpark, which was to extend from east to west through the heart of the district. The entry by the garden designer and landscape architect Wim Boer (1922-2000) was chosen as the winning design and, between 1958 and 1968, the park was laid out largely in accordance with this design.

Like the adjoining district, the park exhibits features of a functionalist design philosophy with its lucid rectilinear layout, which moreover links in with Buitenveldert’s street pattern. The main north-south traffic arteries through the district divide the park into a succession of individual ‘rooms’. In the middle of the largest, centrally situated room is a square island, which is designed as a meeting place. The use of concrete and asphalt in the park design was highly innovative at that time.

In professional circles this modernist city park is regarded as a highpoint of postwar landscape architecture. However, the park is little used by local residents. It is never very busy, even on warm summer days. Moreover, the vegetation has become so overgrown in places that it is almost menacing and bridges and water features have been poorly maintained.

In order to increase the park’s appeal to local residents, in 2007 the city council drew up a restructuring plan, which is currently being carried out in phases. The individual identity of the separate rooms is gradually being enhanced, while preserving the unity of the whole. The network of footpaths and cycleways is being improved and the vegetation along these paths is being cut back in order to improve visibility and public security. It is also the intention to increase the park’s usability. The functionalist style of Wim Boers’ original plan of 1958 is being respected wherever possible. In 2008, to mark the completion of the first phase of the park’s redevelopment, Buitenveldert’s new public works complex was opened in one of the eastern rooms. This design by Claus en Kaan architects was awarded the Golden A.A.P. architecture prize in 2009. (ARCAM/DW)