The Stadhouderskade is the most polluted and dangerous street in Amsterdam. There are many traffic accidents, there is air pollution, noise pollution and it is a busy transit route. A big contrast with the eighteenth century, when people were strolling along the Singel in the green area – as a few paintings at the Rijksmuseum show us.
“The Stadhouderskade is a rough part of the city,” says Machteld Kors, director of strategic development at UNStudio. The architectural firm has its head office in various buildings along the Stadhouderskade. “With our 200 employees, we use the place very intensively and we think it is important to give something back to this home base.” For an architectural firm it’d be obvious to immediately start sketching, but UNStudio chose differently. “We wanted to approach it more bottom-up, so that the ambition would be broadly supported,” says Kors. “To achieve large and small interventions, based on connection and a joint initiative. After a workshop with the initiators, we agreed it should be no master plan, no action group, but a movement.”
Safe, vital and future-proof
The initiators have united in The Green Mile Foundation. They are Heineken, the Rijksmuseum, De Nederlandsche Bank, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, UNStudio and Ruth van Dijken. She is the founder of Blendingbricks, an agency focused on healthy and green living environments. After talks and workshops with the ‘large residents’ of the Stadhouderskade, a design study for vital cities and villages, subsidized by the Stimuleringsfonds, and exploratory talks with the municipality, the movement will officially start on 25 April. Then the initiators will give a joint ambition and outlook to the future to alderman Egbert de Vries. Kors: “There is a lot of enthusiasm and cooperation from the municipality, and an area broker has also joined us to support us.”
“The ambition is to turn the Stadhouderskade into ‘The Green Mile’; a green, sustainable, safe, vital and future-proof street for people, animals and nature”, we read on the website. “A meaningful public space that invites you to walk, meet, play sports and experience nature.” The idea is that the foundation will soon make small and large interventions to achieve this. The area must also become a living lab for innovations. Kors: “We want to turn all lampposts into so-called planterns, i.e. greened lampposts. We want to make the water more accessible to area users. The bridges must become much greener and more pleasant places to stay.” The support from the municipality is very nice and makes it easier to transform the area,” says Kors. “They also see the area as a living lab, which will hopefully make it easier for us to achieve results.”
Data and residents
The Green Mile is also in contact with the International Urban Artificial Intelligence Group. They use datasets to investigate how cities can become greener. “There is data on noise, on accidents, on air quality: we want to use it to make the city more liveable. Organisations and people in the region can contact us when they want to contribute ideas or have interesting datasets available.”
The Green Mile will also actively engage residents. “We want to make it a beautiful area together with the residents so that we get the best out of the area,” says Kors. “We are looking for inspiring examples for this and are also looking for someone who can help us as an employee of the foundation.”
The participants in the foundation make a financial contribution and also contribute in their own way. For example, students from the AUAS program robots that will soon build objects with residual wood that will be placed on the Green Mile. For example, think of canopies and benches. Rijksmuseum wants to use the Vermeer Year in 2023 to sow Vermeer yellow and Vermeer blue tulips on the roadsides of the Stadhouderskade.
Model of Amsterdam Economic Board
Kors already received a phone call from Hoofddorp where they want to set up a similar initiative. “With our approach, we copy the model of the Amsterdam Economic Board: The Green Mile is a collaboration between government, business and education, in which we will also involve residents. We’re just getting started, so I don’t want to celebrate too soon. But I think the foundation for success is working with people who believe that this is how you can make change happen. That you can make a polluted area pleasant and clean again by joining forces as neighbors.”
Do you want to contribute to The Green Mile? Sign up via The Green Mile Movement.
Text: Mirjam Streefkerk