Creative freedom in Amsterdam

“Amsterdam has a reputation for being a bit brave and just doing it – and maybe shouting about it a bit, too!” That’s DUS Architects’ assessment of their hometown. The architecture firm is revolutionising the future of city building, using the creative freedom and relaxed legislature of Amsterdam as both inspiration and springboard. “As architects, we’ve always been really interested in pioneering cities, and 400 years ago, Amsterdam was the first global hub. We thought, why can’t we print the canal belt of the future?” asks Hedwig Heinsman. “Amsterdam does have guts. They dare. Where else in Europe can you develop and build something like this in the heart of town, 300 metres from the main station?” But they also see room for improvement: “The canal belt was built by its citizens 400 years ago, but at the moment only a few real estate companies and financial parties decide what is going to be built. We want more people to have access to production and to design,” says Hans Vermeulen.

DUS Architects, in short

DUS Architects was founded by partners Hans Vermeulen, Martine de Wit and Hedwig Heinsman in 2004, and now has a staff of ten. The firm has a philosophy that they call ‘R and do’, or ‘beta architecture’, with much of their development done in the open, allowing partners and the public to contribute and comment. Current projects range from art installations and event design to large-scale urban planning.These include the design of 150 residential units in Nieuwegein and supervising the transformation of 2,000 homes in Almere Haven. In 2006, their open approach was awarded the RMNO prize by VROM (the Dutch council for research on spatial planning, nature and the environment).

More creative ideas include the Bubble Building, a construction made entirely of soapy bubbles, and Cargo Island: starter homes built on an old cargo ship. DUS is founding partner of the OPEN COOP, a cooperative for ‘knowledge-based industries’, and of DO-tank, which aims to solve a range of societal problems.