Traditionally seen as utilitarian corridors, the nine alleys that connect two major commercial axes, the Damrak and the Nieuwendijk, have long been overlooked for their potential. The alleys are conceived of as spaces suited only for bike parking, trash and deliveries. Even with the current extensive transformation of the Damrak the city has not planned a role for alleys to serve as vibrant urban spaces. The general perception of alleys as ‘eyesores’ that are unsafe and unclean has reinforced the lack of popular and political support needed to maximize their potential as open space resources.
In 2014, Space&Matter together with Rappange & Partners and Rivet Concepts conducted a research, commissioned by the Municipality of Amsterdam, to examine the opportunities of activating Amsterdam’s downtown alleys in order to contribute to a more vibrant network of people-oriented public spaces. De 9 Stegen stimulates a process of renewal, by giving the opportunity to designers and artists to highlight the qualities and characteristics of the alleys and help create an exciting environment. The strategy will commission artists to partner with property owners and install permanent and temporary public art in alleyways. It will stimulate the creation of intriguing public space and public-private relationships that, in turn, could foster new ideas of transformations.
Through the collaboration with institutions, companies, shop owners and citizens, the narrow streets become places for cultural activities and education. The transformation will have instant revitalization benefits for all adjacent properties.
Space&Matter is working on the urban strategy to implement a comprehensive five-year plan to revitalize the nine alleys into a vibrant and activated public space. De 9 Stegen will become an inevitable new hotspot for the city.