‘What have we forgotten?’ The quest for green ideas

It seems quite contradictory: sacrificing green areas of the city in order to develop Zuidas and build Zuidasdok, while at the same time nurturing green ambitions and calling on residents to come up with their ideas. So what do our landscape architect and project manager think about this?

Zuidas is in search of green ideas, to reflect the plans for a green Zuidas (in Dutch). As someone involved in the development of Zuidas, you can use this form (in Dutch) to submit your ideas (in Dutch or English). The deadline is 20 May. Also, be sure to attend the Make it Green! kick-off meeting on 7 May (in Dutch, meeting also in Dutch).


Zuidas is a city district that’s developing fast. Inevitably, green areas will be sacrificed. But there are also ambitious plans to make Zuidas green. How can these two aims be reconciled? This is the dilemma faced by Mai van der Heide, Green project manager, and Kim Kool, landscape architect. ‘The Make it Green! project is all part of the Plan for a Green Zuidas (Plan voor een groene Zuidas)’, says Van der Heide. ‘The plan covers all of the green initiatives we intend to implement over the next five years. It’s based on a vision agreed by the City Council for which € 10 million is being made available. The aim is to improve existing green areas where there is space and add new areas of green as well. The emphasis is on quality: in other words, plants with a long lifespan and of different types. Not just grass and not just trees. Perhaps equally importantly: we intend to create green areas that will look good throughout the seasons and are accessible and available to everyone. Green areas that help protect the city climate in the longer term, creating a habitat for plants and animals.’

Mai van der Heide, Green project manager and Kim Kool, landscape architect
Mai van der Heide, Green project manager and Kim Kool, landscape architect

‘What have we forgotten?’

The Plan for a Green Zuidas outlines the strategy for making Zuidas green. Van der Heide: ‘This certainly doesn’t mean that we’re the only ones with ideas. Zuidas residents and users have plenty of knowledge themselves. We intend to tap into that knowledge. Where do people see further opportunities for adding green? We look forward to being surprised by people’s ideas. What areas have we overlooked?’ The sum of € 200,000 has been set aside for ideas. It will become available in two phases, in order to spread projects over time. This means that € 100,000 is available for the first phase. ‘We will make the most popular ideas a reality, preferably together with Zuidas residents and users.’ Read more about the project and how to register your green ideas (in Dutch).


Not just a sticking plaster

Lots of people can only see green areas disappearing. They’re right, aren’t they? ‘Of course, it’s a real shame that trees and other plants have to be sacrificed for the Zuidas and Zuidasdok projects. We’d also prefer to see them stay or be replanted elsewhere, if they can. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. But we’re still doing everything we can to keep Zuidas as green as possible, improve the quality of existing green areas and add new ones.’ Landscape architect Kim Kool thinks it would be a shame if people see the Make it Green! project merely as a sticking plaster to make good the tree felling needed to realise Zuidasdok. ‘The fact that green areas are being sacrificed for the construction of Zuidasdok has actually more to do with enhancing Amsterdam’s accessibility and improving traffic flow to and from the northern Randstad.


Our aim is not to compensate for that, but to provide Zuidas with an attractive green climate. We want to create a greener Zuidas that’s even more pleasant to live and work in. It’s really about experiencing green areas, a good living environment for plants and animals and effective water management.’ At the Green Market (Groene Markt, in Dutch), there’ll be more information about this. We’re asking people about their neighbourhood. What can we improve or add in Zuidas? What have we forgotten?

Photo: Jan Vonk

Ideas via an app

In order to reach as many people as possible, an app is available: the Opp app. You can find the instructions on how to use the app here.  Kool: ‘People can use the app to discuss ideas with each other and with us. Using the app in this way will give us ideas for planting in Zuidas and it also offers us an insight into how people think. I hope a lot of people make use of this form of dialogue, which is also relatively new to us. I should also point out: as well as the ideas that will be put into practice, all of the other ideas will also assist us in our other plans.’


Culture change in city government

Van der Heide believes that something has changed in recent years in the way that the City of Amsterdam approaches the landscaping of public spaces. ‘The Plan for a Green Zuidas is evidence of that. There is much more emphasis on green. ‘Nature-inclusive construction’ is high on the agenda, for example. Making Zuidas green is not just the concern of city government – it’s something that residents and building owners also have a real role to play in. We aim to seize the opportunity to make use of local knowledge in developing Zuidas. Of course, we can’t please everyone and make all of the ideas a reality, but the first step is to listen to what ideas are out there.’ Kim Kool: ‘We hope that everyone who has an idea to make Zuidas greener will respond, whether they are residents, employees or commuters!’


For more information about the project, go to the Make it Green (Maak het groen, in Dutch) page. It features further details of the project, the 10 rules of the game, the overall project schedule and FAQs.


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