Near the banks of the river Amstel in Amsterdam, the area of an old water plant is being redeveloped. One part is dedicated to self build, that is to say, people are allowed to build their own individual house, with lesser building restrictions and with more freedom regarding the aesthetical quality and architectural relationship with their adjacent buildings. The homeowner designs and builds it or hires an architect and contractor to build. It gives the owners the opportunity to establish their own (town) house with a very personal view. It is a relative new way of building in the new development in the inner city of Amsterdam, initiated after the collapse of the more traditional developing companies because of the recession. The available development sites were unoccupied and the council is, in this way, exploring different ways to enable housing developments and allow individuals to build. Historically, it was a very traditional way of building in the old quarters in the inner city of Amsterdam.
Now I personally encourage these types of developments, although it certainly has some drawbacks. For one, every owner seems so preoccupied in creating as much individual expression as possible in the appearance of the house, that as a consequence, the whole ensemble is quickly becoming a cacophony of sound instead of a harmonious composition. Every house is screaming for attention.
There is a way to create harmony in the ensemble, by being as minimal as possible on the outside of the house, so the house is becoming a backdrop to the inevitable standouts and to concentrate on a very individual interior, for instance with double height rooms, personal and original layouts etc.
Others don't really care about harmony and are approaching the matter more indifferent. They go for the pastiche, big time. They copy the architectural style of the 18th / 19th century neighbourhoods in Amsterdam to the millimeter, mirroring proportions and sizing of all elements in the facade and completing it with cornices at the top, fake cramp irons, mouldings and cast iron balcony fences.But they are using the most modern building techniques and construction methods. It is confusing, to say the least.
Are they having the “homesick” blues?