Mr. Visserplein

Mr. Visserplein
Dienst Stadsontwikkeling
Gemeente Amsterdam
Tram 9, metro 51, 53, 54 (uitstappen Waterlooplein)

A jumble of roads

Old aerial photographs of the eastern part of Amsterdam city centre show Weesperstraat as a straight line that cuts through the urban fabric from a southeasterly direction before terminating in the jumble of roads in the square Mr. Visserplein. This jumble has been sorted out following a number of traffic management improvements. What remains are the remnants of a traffic roundabout that has never functioned as such.

This is most clearly visible in the tram tracks that cut across the square and the copper green arches over the entrance to the covered playground Tunfun. As the name of this children’s paradise suggests, this section of the square was designed as a tunnel to Valkenburgerstraat and up until the nineties also functioned as such. Mr. Visserplein was built in 1967 as a turntable directing traffic towards the western city centre, the IJ tunnel or via a four-lane expressway directly to the city’s main railway station, Centraal Station.

The expressway was never built; old aerial photographs again show how from Mr. Visserplein the carriageway becomes two lanes in Jodenbreestraat, before terminating in a single lane in Sint Antoniesbreestraat. This is very different from what the city’s urban planners had envisaged back in the fifties and sixties.
Mr. Visserplein was built not only for traffic management reasons, but also because the city council wanted to demolish the rundown neighbourhoods around Waterlooplein. When, in the mid seventies, the Nieuwmarktbuurt area was also threatened with demolition in order to make way for the projected four-lane expressway, major protests erupted in the city. In the eighties, the plots on Sint Antoniesbreestraat where housing had already been demolished were once again filled with residential development rather than roads. However, it was already too late for Mr. Visserplein and this square has functioned ever since as a half traffic roundabout that primarily channels traffic towards the IJ tunnel.

The plots around the square were gradually filled with buildings, such as, for example, the Maupoleum – which was demolished in 1994 after 23 years in order to make way for new build – and the Netherlands Film and Television Academy. However, the public space here has never been attractive and because of the high number of road casualties, in 2008 the city council decided to redevelop the square. Wibautstraat, redesigned as an urban boulevard, is now linked to a slightly less bleak and at any rate safer square. (ARCAM)