A polluted plot of land in Amsterdam has been transformed into a “small piece of paradise” through a community-driven development. De Ceuvel is now an eco-hub for creative and social enterprises.
The principal concept of the development is immediately obvious to those visiting de Ceuvel: almost all of the buildings are houseboats taken out of water and placed on land, creating a unique feel. The project is a demonstration ground for “closed loop” and regenerative urban development; using clean technologies for managing water, energy, sanitation, and food production, as well as cleaning the polluted soil using plants. The social and innovative aspects of de Ceuvel attract hundreds of visitors every week.
In 2012, together with a group of creatives we put forward a regenerative concept for the former shipyard, De Ceuvel Volharding. With this proposal we won the tender, which was announced by the municipality (Projectbureau Noordwaarts en Bureau Broedplaatsen) and secured the use of the plot for ten years. A whole team of experts developed a highly innovative plan in the fields of urbanism, architecture and sustainability.
Due to the temporary nature of the development and the low budget, the multidisciplinary team focused on developing an innovative concept where mobility and reuse were key. The design of the urban plan combines 'waste’ land and 'waste’ materials into a source of new value. The site features imaginatively retrofitted houseboats placed around a winding bamboo walkway and surrounded by an undulating landscape of soil-cleaning plants designed by Delva Landscape architects. Each of the upgraded boats will house offices, ateliers, or workshops for creative and social enterprises.
This green oasis creates a new on-land harbor for these boats, which otherwise would have ended up being demolished. As largely self-sufficient elements, the boats will be able to leave the site after ten years without any trace, leaving the land more valuable and biodiverse.
De Ceuvel's site is a 'Cleantech Playground’ for the exploration and testing of new green technologies as they become available. The site’s compost toilets and biofilters will collectively save around 6 million liters of water from being used to flush waste and divert 10 million more liters into on-site biological treatment. The eco-retrofits and renewable energy production on site have saved an estimated 600 tonnes of materials throughout construction and will save over 200.000 tonnes of CO2 emissions throughout the site’s existence.
The polluted soil at de Ceuvel will be purified by phytoremediation techniques, in which plants are used to clean the soil. A specially selected combination of plants is used to stabilize, break down and take up pollutants, while producing low-impact biomass. After ten years, the entire site will be returned to the municipality of Amsterdam cleaner than we got it. Research on the purification and low-impact biomass production at de Ceuvel is conducted by the University of Ghent (Belgium).
Space&Matter and Metabolic led the design and technical outfitting of the boats retrofit, together with construction foreman and boat expert Huib Koel. The boat retrofitting process was publicly visible at NDSM wharf in Amsterdam North from April till September 2013. The boats were placed on the de Ceuvel site in October 2013.