While waiting for the ferry at the wharf behind Amsterdam Central Station, the Eye Film Museum designed by the Viennese architectural firm Delugan Meissl Associated Architects stands with its futuristic design as a landmark on the IJ Lake northern shore. A fifteen minute ride on a free ferry took me along the shore, to what is now considered Amsterdam’s creative district.

Eye Film Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

But this wasn’t always the case. Amsterdam-Noord (or North Amsterdam) used to be a rather undesirable area where lower income workers could find cheap rent. The district has undergone significant changes during the past decade however. Multiple real estate developments on the former Royal Dutch Shell properties are changing the area’s image and are setting it up as an extension of downtown Amsterdam. Many companies and businesses within the creative and gaming industry are also moving north, including those such as MTV Networks, which opened their new offices in 2007.

Further North, on the former site of the Dutch Dock and Shipbuilding Company (NDSM) which closed in 1984, artists, designers, architects and other entrepreneurs have established workshops and ateliers in abandoned industrial hangars. The area also has many cafés, bars and restaurants, and is home to a lively nightlife that hosts regular festivals, fairs, exhibitions, and even a flea market.

NDSM, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Dutch Dock and Shipbuilding Company

Apart from the temporary containers in place for students’ accommodation, NDSM is currently mainly a workplace. But a future mixed use development is set to offer more housing opportunities in the area along with retail and recreation spaces. Housing options will include apartments, lofts and live-work spaces. The project’s challenge is to keep the creative and rough vibe of NDSM which has inspired its current development.

NDSM, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Dutch Dock and Shipbuilding Company

NDSM is to Amsterdam what Brooklyn is to New York: an artistic hub and a field of experimentation for various spontaneous urban practices. These practices range from squatting to self-built spaces and pop-up initiatives. The site will, however, be ultimately gained by planned development and gentrification. NDSM in Amsterdam Noord is going through the same evolution process that many neglected industrial sites in major metropolises went through.

What do you think of this urban development process? How could such sites remain authentic and not lose their creative and artistic spirit?

Credits: Images by Sarah Essbai. Data linked to sources.