Berendse is enthusiastic. ‘We can now start putting our plans for OBA NEXT into action.’ The decision-making about the branch of OBA NEXT in Zuidas has been going on for several years. Zuidas is developing into a vibrant urban district and it is therefore important to have more cultural and other public facilities based in the area. The arrival of OBA NEXT will provide an important, public place where people can come together. It is located in the Knowledge District – also known as the Innovation District – to the south of the A10, on Mahlerlaan, and close to Amsterdam Zuid station and VU Amsterdam (Vrije Universiteit). The Knowledge District will include 1,700 homes, 216 of which will be first-timer apartments in ‘Stepstone’ tower run by De Key Housing Association. Berendse: ‘As far as we’re concerned, OBA NEXT will fit in seamlessly with these developments in 2027 and Zuidas will have a public heart where everyone is welcome.’
Meeting, sharing knowledge and experimenting
The ‘next’ aspect of OBA NEXT is all about providing space for meeting, sharing knowledge and experimenting, says Berendse. ‘It will be a place where, on one floor you’ll find a lab with 3D printers and a video-editing studio, for example, and on another floor, you can consult a huge digital database and attend lectures and workshops in yet another room.’ Berendse is not yet sure exactly what it will look like. ‘We will begin the further development work in September. In this initial period, we want to focus on seeking out alliances with our partners – such as TechConnect, the House of Journalism (Huis van de Journalistiek), VU Amsterdam and the European Cultural Foundation – and find out what ideas they have for sharing knowledge.’
OBA NEXT is also urgently in search of new alliances. Berendse: ‘When we previously opened up a new OBA library, our focus was on collecting new books, but we’re now looking for parties willing to make equipment available, for example, and people who want to offer coaching or workshops. With its wide range of specialists, Zuidas is the ideal place for that.’ Of course, future visitors will also have a role to play in developing the programme. ‘At a later stage, we will be keen to hear from Amsterdam citizens about what they want and expect.’ The programme will actually be available earlier than the building itself, which is scheduled for completion in 2027.
OBA NEXT has also been the subject of some recent criticism. Berendse: ‘Amsterdam citizens were worried that existing libraries would suffer as a result of this new branch. That won’t happen. I actually think it is the libraries that will be the ones that benefit from OBA NEXT and the working facilities it offers. The most successful initiatives can then be rolled out there as well.’ Incidentally, why was it not possible to accommodate OBA NEXT in one of the existing libraries? ‘We did consider that, but because it is a completely new concept where meeting takes centre stage, we needed a different building from the ones we already have at our disposal.’ The fact that physical encounters cannot properly be replaced by digital meetings is something that has become clear over the recent period, as Berendse confirms. ‘OBA NEXT will soon provide a space to meet that need. It’s important, especially since Amsterdam does not have many large, covered, publicly-accessible buildings.’
With the investment decision now approved, the OBA NEXT plot will come onto the market and developers can submit bids. The date for the publication of this tender is expected to be just before or after the summer of 2021. The tender will involve the development of 8,500 sq. m. of real estate and a public bicycle park commissioned by the City of Amsterdam. There will also be a further 16,500 sq. m. of offices that the future developer will develop at its own cost and risk. In terms of the look and feel, both Zuidas and OBA would like to see a distinctive building that stands out from the huge blocks already found in Zuidas. Berendse: ‘We want to see a building that reflects the ideas behind OBA NEXT: open and inviting, a place where everyone feels at home.’