Revolutionising the future of city building

Doing things differently is the Dutch way of life, and it’s almost par for the course in Amsterdam. Architectural firm DUS thinks this is just fine and it comes as little surprise. Their unique designs, which reach into the realm of 3D printing and urban strategy, are revolutionising the future of city building have and earned them international renown and multiple awards. 

DUS was launched by partners Hans Vermeulen, Martine de Wit and Hedwig Heinsman in 2004. The firm has a philosophy they call "research and design by doing," with much of their development done in the open, allowing partners and the public to contribute and comment. 

Over the years, they have worked on everything from designing gates at Schiphol to creating 3D-printed furniture for a Japanese retail store. They even helped devise ways to turn waste from the french fry industry into tableware, an endeavour that wonderfully captures their unique combination of quirky and cutting-edge. 

Amsterdam is a city with guts

Amsterdam has a reputation for being a bit brave and just doing it – and maybe shouting about it a bit, too,” according to Hedwig Heinsman, one of DUS’s cofounders. “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?”

She’s referring to one of the firm’s most prestigious projects: the 3D print canal house living lab. A life-size canal home was created using 3D printing to serve as a starting point for research into global housing solutions. The undertaking involved 25 international partners and former US president Barack Obama even paid a visit. 

Continuing, Heinsman adds that the city “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 she also sees 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 design.” 

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