Bos en Lommer & De Baarsjes then and now
With a multicultural heritage and dynamic community-orientated spirit, Bos en Lommer and De Baarsjes are two rapidly developing neighbourhoods in Amsterdam-West, home to families and a young and diverse crowd. Urban renewal and gentrification in recent decades have secured their status as up-and-coming hotspots packed with cultural attractions, bars, restaurants, nightlife options and lush green spaces.
Like many of Amsterdam’s outlying neighbourhoods, Bos en Lommer and De Baarsjes were previously agricultural areas made up of expansive meadowland and polders. Bos en Lommer (literally forest and shade) is named after a former farmstead, whilst De Baarsjes comes from an inn called the De Drie Baarsjes (The Three Perch) which kept the local farming community fed and watered from as early as 1642. Urban expansion didn’t happen until the first half of the 20th century when commuter homes were built along the Zandvoort to Amsterdam tram line (now the Admiraal de Ruijterweg).
Between 1920 and 1940, pioneering architect HP Berlage implemented the revolutionary Amsterdam School style in his designs for the westward expansion of De Baarsjes including the main square Mercatorplein, Jan Evertsenstraat and Hoofdweg. Bos en Lommer wasn’t built up until the 30s and 40s when apartment blocks and a few high-rise buildings around Bos en Lommerplein were constructed. The western part, now known as Kolenkitbuurt, was developed after the Second World War with accommodation for displaced refugees. This part of Amsterdam West has a long history of welcoming immigrants and fostering multicultural communities and there is still a large population of Turkish, Moroccan and Surinamese people living in Bos en Lommer and De Baarsjes today.
In the last decades of the 20th century, Bos en Lommer and De Baarsjes fell into such a state of neglect that some parts were considered to be the most disadvantaged areas in the city. Housing blocks were in a state of disrepair, suspicious drinking establishments and bordellos sprang up and crime was rampant. It wasn’t until an injection of funds in the late 90s that many of the existing 1920s apartments were renovated, new building complexes developed and ambitious plans to deal with crime and safety were laid out. This major overhaul also saw the opening of Erasmus Park and the redevelopment of Mercatorplein into the vibrant neighbourhood hub that it is today. The spirit of urban renewal continues today but still respects the area’s multicultural heritage and dynamic community-orientated spirit.
For several years now Bos en Lommer and De Baarsjes have been considered the hip and happening new kids on the block when it comes to Amsterdam’s most liveable neighbourhoods. In Bos en Lommer, cheaper rents have attracted families, students and young internationals whilst the increasingly-used nickname ‘BoLo’ is a sure-fire sign that the ‘hood is growing in popularity. At a first glance, the post-war architecture doesn’t carry the same charm as the historic canal belt, but scratching beneath the surface reveals a wealth of cool cultural establishments like De School, the international theatre Podium Mozaïek and more and more speciality coffee bars, galleries and food hotspots.
Meanwhile, De Baarsjes is wonderfully green, young, diverse and largely inhabited by families, students and creatives. The ‘hood’s beating heart is the Jan Evertsenstraat – or simply, ‘Jan Eef’ – a popular shopping street where trendy concept stores, Turkish grocery stores and bakeries sit side by side, leading up to the bustling Mercatorplein with its street markets and cafe terraces. Other attractions include the galleries along Witte de Withstraat, a range of creative workplaces, Het Sieraad, - an example of the area’s beautifully renovated Amsterdam School architecture - along with an increasing array of trendy wine bars, beer pubs and cutting-edge restaurants.