Max Havelaarflats

Jephtastraat, Sinjeur Semeynsstraat
D. Klijn
Bus 64, Wiltzanghlaan

Street facades on the motorway

In 1960, two six-storey blocks of flats, on a two-storey base containing storage units, were built in the new district of Bos en Lommer, several hundred metres to the north of Bos en Lommerplein. The flats stood opposite each other on either side of Multatuliweg, a quiet, spacious two-lane road with parallel service roads, which connected Bos en Lommerplein with Haarlemmerweg at grade. As a reference to the road on which they were situated, the two housing blocks soon became known as the Max Havelaar Flats.

The construction of the flats and their location on Multatuliweg was in keeping with the famous General Expansion Plan of 1934, drawn up by the city’s urban development department. Housing blocks with a north-south orientation were projected in the area to the north of Bos en Lommerplein, in rows grouped along a central traffic axis. The flats were not out of key with the other buildings that had been built in the immediate vicinity at the end of the period of post-war reconstruction. In accordance with established Dutch practice, the elevations were executed in brown brick, and the influence of modernist ideas regarding construction and living found expression in, among other things, the use of a concrete skeleton, flat roofs and the fact that all of the dwellings were provided with balconies at the front and rear, for maximum contact with wholesome fresh air.

For several years, the urban youth of Bos en Lommer played in the green verges between and along the traffic lanes of Multatuliweg. In 1963, however, this came to an abrupt end. Multatuliweg had to make way for the construction of the Coentunnel trajectory, an urban motorway – later called Einsteinweg – that was to connect the future Coentunnel with Bos en Lommerplein. From the north, the surface of Multatuliweg was first dug up as far as Bos en Lommerplein and the ground was then raised to the dike level where Einsteinweg was constructed. In 1966, Coentunnel and Einsteinweg – the first section of what was later to become the A10 ring road – were opened with great fanfare. The new road extended over virtually the entire width between the Max Havelaar flats, with traffic whizzing past precisely at the level of the balconies of the first floor dwellings.

The quiet city street turned out to be a cuckoo’s egg, from which a motorway had sprung. The Max Havelaar Flats are now buildings in exile, deprived of the surroundings in which they belonged and an absurd sight sunk behind the crash barriers of the A10. The residents of the flats, who were once opposite neighbours on a quiet street, are now separated by the motorway. Lidewijdepad, one of the underpasses that connect the worlds inside and outside the orbital motorway, has the character of a sewage pipe. In the recent past, residents of the flats used a page on the social networking site Hyves, as a virtual restoration of neighbourly contact. (ARCAM/DW)