Urban Development in a Historical City

By: Sungwoo(Scott) Cho

In False Flat: Why Dutch Design Is So Good the author Aaron Betsky explains that Dutch Architecture is so good because it takes into consideration the landscape of the Netherlands and the historic cities that were already built there. Cities like Amsterdam were originally built on a Swamp have to consider the landscape and the space that is available as a key element in architecture. Amsterdam is also a city with a very rich history and lots of historic buildings that need to be considered in architecture. Cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam blend both old and new very well and gives you the best of both worlds.

I agree with Aaron Betsky’s point that Dutch Architecture is so good because of the thought and imagination that goes into all of planning and development of Dutch cities. The Dutch used what little space they have in the best way possible. They were able to make significant urban developments and architectural advances without losing any of its history like many other nations and cities have. In cities like Amsterdam, it is possible to get the full experience of Europe. You can see urban buildings and a modern looking city on one side of Amsterdam and turn around to see a more traditional looking European city.

I can’t wait for the trip to Amsterdam and see all of the sights that Amsterdam has to offer. I am looking forward to going to the Rijksmuseum to look at all the art available and apply what we learn in the first week and I’m also looking forward to seeing the Anne Frank house and all of the history behind it. I would also like to see the MatchBox Building (pictured bellow) as it is a great example of modern architecture in a traditional city.



7 thoughts on “Urban Development in a Historical City

  1. In terms of the essay, I think it might be interesting to see if there’s evidence that previous forms of Dutch design are present in the Golden Age paintings. Was the Golden Age in paintings a rebirth of design, or was there some inspiration from previous generations that they used as the foundations for acclaimed art? Not sure how you could find this out, but I know it’s a question I’m going to be asking when we visit the museums in two weeks!


  2. After going over today’s reading and going over the comments on this post. I feel like I understand Dutch design better as a whole and the purpose of Dutch design in general. Although Dutch design can seem very elaborate in its design, it all has a purpose whether it is to remodel a certain area of the city or famous buildings or making the road to suit both cars and pedestrians in a safe but efficient way.

    In the case of the two articles that were supposed to be read for today, both projects were a way to improve the area or a building without changing too much. For example, in the first article, The designer Trude Hooykaas didn’t want to change the history of the area. Instead, she decided to keep the original structure and just added to it making it stand out more. Another example of how Dutch Design not only looks good but also serves a purpose is the roundabouts and junctions. In the Netherlands, because there are a lot of cyclists there needs to be a safer way for people to cross junctions. Looking at Dutch junctions and roundabouts, they are designed with the cyclists in mind to create a safer design everyone who crosses the junctions and roundabouts.

    After going over all of this information today, I can’t wait for the Amsterdam trip to experience all of this impressive design in person and to see all of the wonderful things Amsterdam has to offer.


    1. Nice link to Betsky. What specifically do you see Hooykaas changing vs. not changing? Is this “traditional” in any way? How can you apply any of Betsky’s frameworks–is this “Dutch baroque”? (what does Betsky mean by that anyway?) Or is it something about linearity or use of space?


  3. I like the idea of thinking about Amsterdam as a metaphor–a smaller scaled version–for all of Europe! How might that play out? Do we have Versailles? Do we have the Brandenburg Gate? Do we have the Pantheon? Or is there another way this happens in Amsterdam? How “European” is the city?

    In the “matchbox” building, what do you see going on there? How does it specifically reflect any ideas from Betsky/Eeuwens &/or Meyer? Does it work with or against its street and neighboring buildings? Does it say something particularly “Dutch”? or particularly “Amsterdammer?” And did it get built?


  4. “In cities like Amsterdam, it is possible to get the full experience of Europe. You can see urban buildings and a modern looking city on one side of Amsterdam and turn around to see a more traditional looking European city.”
    I find the statement quoted above a little problematic. Every country, every culture, has unique design so I would argue that you can’t get the full experience of Europe in a single city. While I agree what makes Amsterdam unique is it’s blend of old and new, a lot of European cities do this. What makes Amsterdam’s combo so unique? Why is it the prime example to you of the European city?
    My personal answer to this would be the taste and quality of Dutch design. Design and infrastructure is literally integrated into the soil of the Netherlands and only from that soil can the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague grow.


  5. I really like how you point out that Amsterdam is a city with a rich history and a lot of historic structures. When Amsterdam was originally built its location on a swamp forced architects to consider the landscape and the minimal space that was available to them as a key element in the design. I also really like that you point out Aaron Betsky’s point that Dutch Architecture is so good because of the thought and imagination that goes into the planning of Dutch design and how space is utilized in the most efficient way possible. I think this ties in really well with the second part of False Flat and the emphasis it places on creating rational structures that appear to be irrational.
    For your essay I think you should use these ideas and put them into practice with specific structures. While using specific examples I think you will be able to expand your ideas and be able to explain why the blending of old and new, as you discuss in your post, works and how it effects the city.


  6. In the second part of False Flat Betsky and Eeuwens really emphasize that modern Dutch design fights against established norms and are seemingly irrational in structure. Having a well-developed design is one thing, but the Dutch are eccentric and their designs reflect that. They further emphasized this point with the idea that Dutch architecture has a hidden baroque element. The designs of modern Dutch architecture move beyond the established aesthetic and transform each structure into an elaborate style, the baroque implying the complex detail of Dutch design.

    So while your first post discusses the blending of old and new designs in urban planning, how do you see the palimpsest of dutch design in specific structures? How can you connect this abstract aesthetic to traditional style and form? If there is a rationale that Dutch design goes against established norms, why do they continue to design with a slight traditional lens? Furthermore, why does the blending of two styles work in the city? Do you think it has to do with the identity of the Dutch population?


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