In mid twentieth century, thousands of welders, carpenters, crane workers and other workmen filled the shipyard which was the size of fourteen football fields. In the largest of the work sheds, dating from 1920, steel plates were cut to size. The name ‘Nederlandse Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij’ (Dutch Docking and Shipbuilding Company) can still be faintly made out above the shed. The deafening sound of rivets being struck resounded throughout the shipyard. Outside, the prefab parts of giant ships were assembled on the slipways on the IJ River.
Aerial photo facing North, 12 August 1968. Photo: Stadsarchief DRO.
During the heyday of the shipyard, at the beginning of the ‘60s, six ships a year were ‘christened’. On 8 September 1938, De Oranje (The Orange) was launched, the jewel in the shipyard’s crown. It was the fastest passenger vessel in the world and could carry 800 people.
Forge with crane, 2008. Photo: E. van Eis, Stadsdeel Noord.
Artists and squatters
Foreign competition and the consequences of the oil crisis led to the shipyard declaring bankruptcy in 1984. This was followed by a number of quiet years. In the 1990s, squatting artists convinced the city authorities that the NDSM shipyard deserved a new life as a centre of creativity.
Inside carpentry workshop at MTV, 2008. Photo: E. van Eis, Stadsdeel Noord.
Thus, the NDSM shipyard flourished as of old. The work sheds, slipways and cranes are now national monuments. And there is plenty of space for creative experimentation. In the old carpentry workshop, the architect Max van Aerschot mixed old and new elements for MTV Networks. The artists and creative companies ensure that the premises are always full of surprises. The houseboat, ‘GeWoonboot’, shows how to live climate neutrally, and the cafés Noorderlicht and IJ-kantine have wonderful views over the IJ River, the city and the historic heart of the Amsterdam ship building industry.