Development and design of a creative incubator on a polluted brown-field. By using low-tech techniques such as recycling houseboats and cleaning the soil by vegetation, the former shipyard is an innovative sustainability experiment.
A group of companies and citizens is beginning construction on de Ceuvel, one of the most unique and sustainable urban developments
in Europe. The site, which is now heavily polluted, will feature imaginatively retrofitted houseboats placed around a winding wooden
walkway and surrounded by an undulating landscape of soil-cleaning plants. Each of the upgraded boats will house offices, ateliers, or
workshops for creative and social enterprises, and the plan also includes a public teahouse and bed & breakfast.
The houseboats, which would otherwise be thrown away, will be upgraded to the highest possible level of architectural quality and ecoefficiency.
Using a Do-It-Yourself approach and scavenged waste materials, the boats will be fitted with fully renewable energy and water
supplies, green roofs, and original cladding. With a cost of only 5.000 euros for materials, the return on investment for the installed
clean technologies will be less than three years.
De Ceuvel will be built on a water-bound plot of land that was secured for a 10-year lease in 2012 through a tender held by the
Amsterdam municipality. Architects space&matter and Marjolein Smeele brought together a group that put forth the winning concept
for reimagining the site of the former de Ceuvel Volharding shipyard. This group also included DELVA Landscape Architects, who will
design the soil-cleaning park in collaboration with the University of Ghent. Metabolic, a sustainable development agency, completed the
full sustainability plan and feasibility study for the site, with financial support from Innovation Network. Overall financing for the site
development is largely provided by Bureau Broedplaatsen.
Former Ship Wharf ‘Ceuvel Volharding’
The area of ‘Ceuvel Volharding’ is a former ship wharf in Amsterdam. An abandoned and polluted site in the industrial and harbour area of Buiksloterham, in the north of Amsterdam. A plot located at the water with a special history, near the city centre of Amsterdam. The real estate crisis of the past years provided opportunities for an alternative, less capital-intensive way of developing. The area does not remain abandoned. The site will be used as a breeding ground for creative entrepreneurs for the next ten years.
The starting point for the realization of the new creative hub ‘De Ceuvel’ is the pollution of soil and water. Current techniques that are used for purification of soil and water are costly, unsustainable and are often limited to hiding or moving the pollution to another site. The technique of phytoremediation, in which plants are used to stabilize, take-up or extract contamination from the soil, offers an alternative. On the site of ‘De Ceuvel’ this organic way of cleaning the soil results in a working landscape cleaning the soil and producing low-impact biomass. Former houseboats are put on land and transformed into 17 very sustainable ateliers, and after ten years, the site is returned to Amsterdam cleaner than we got it.
The purifying plants are specifically selected for this area; plants that suit the rugged nature of the industrial terrain of Buiksloterham. A raised wooden jetty, winding through the planting, ensures that there is no direct contact with the polluted soil. A layer which remained hidden in the landscape before, is revealed by the variety of plants. An alternative approach to pollution transforms the negative history of a place into a positive perspective.
Former Ship Wharf ‘CeuvelVolharding’
The area of ‘CeuvelVolharding’ is a former ship wharf in Amsterdam. An abandoned and polluted site in the industrial and harbour area of Buiksloterham, in the north of Amsterdam. A plot of about 4000m2 located at the water with a special history, near the city centre of Amsterdam. In an economically better time this place would be cleaned up mechanically and built upon. The current era, in which planned urban developments come to a halt and many areas await development, provides opportunities for an alternative, less capital intensive way of developing.
The area of ‘De Ceuvel’ does not remain abandoned. DELVA Landscape Architects was given the opportunity, by the Municipality of Amsterdam, to use the site as a breeding ground for creative entrepreneurs, for the next ten years. DELVA Landscape Architects has developed a plan for the area in close collaboration with the entrepreneurs that will be using it. The site will become a park that is much more than just a park. An innovative, multifunctional and creative hub.
The starting point for the realization of the new creative hub ‘De Ceuvel’ is the pollution of soil and water. By filling the area with polluted dredge and the polluting activities of the ship wharf the site is heavily polluted with organic as well as inorganic pollutants. Current techniques that are used for purification of soil and water are costly, unsustainable and are often limited to hiding or moving the pollution to another site. The technique of phytoremediation, in which plants are used to extract contamination from the soil, offers an alternative. On the site of ‘De Ceuvel’ this organic way of cleaning the soil will result in a working landscape cleaning the soil and producing low-impact biomass. After ten years, the entire site is returned to the municipality of Amsterdam cleaner than we got it.
Research on the purification and low-impact biomass production at ‘De Ceuvel’ is conducted by the University of Ghent (Belgium). ‘De Ceuvel’ will serve as a test site and pilot project for graduate and doctoral study programs. A ‘knowledge route’ through the area shows the results of these studies and informs visitors about the sustainable principles of the organic purification and low-impact biomass production at the park. ‘De Ceuvel’ will be a place where researchers, designers, residents, governments, businesses, farmers and students get together to define the future use of the area.
Because part of the site is heavily polluted with a mixture of organic and inorganic pollutants, the site will be densely planted with a mixture of purifying plants. An undulating ‘green sea’, matching the rugged character of the industrial and harbour area it is part of. The workplaces for entrepreneurs will be positioned in this zone of isolated nature. This cultivated wilderness is accessed by a winding boardwalk avoiding direct contact with the polluted soil.
When plants are pruned pollutants will be removed from the soil and low-impact biomass is harvested. By making the system of nature part of the design of the area we can go beyond the usual. Purification of soil and water, education, low-impact biomass production, innovation, research, ecology, art and culture come together in this new creative hub in Amsterdam.
The low-impact biomass that is generated from the area will be used to developed products and energy. A small low-impact biomass gasification plant will convert the biomass into energy and there are workshops and tours for residents and visitors to inform them about the purifying park. At ‘De Ceuvel’ the polluted soil is no longer the problem but it is the catalyst of innovative concepts and initiatives in the field of (cultural) sustainability.
Besides ‘De Ceuvel’ there are many abandoned and polluted areas in Amsterdam and its surroundings. Areas besides and between highways and railways, not built ecological corridors, and unused plots at industrial areas. Many of those waiting and functionless areas are polluted, often caused by industrial activities, waste dumping, agricultural activities and urbanization, making them unsuitable for several types of land-use.
We aim for ‘De Ceuvel’ to become the predecessor of a much bigger low-impact biomass production area, a new typology of landscape for Amsterdam and its surrounding area. The innovative way of soil cleaning and low-impact biomass production that is applied at ‘De Ceuvel’ can be an example to many other areas, to become a large scale network of ecologically, economically and socially interesting areas. ‘De Ceuvel’ can the beating heart of this new landscape of Amsterdam.
DE CEUVEL: FROM A POLLUTED BROWNFIELD TO A CREATIVE ECO-HUB THAT IS THE HOT SPOT OF AMSTERDAM
De Ceuvel has become one of the most unique and sustainable urban developments in Europe. Previously a polluted post-industrial brownfield, the site now hosts space for creative entrepreneurs and has been transformed into a showcase for a closed-cycle urban environment. The social and innovative aspects of de Ceuvel attract hundreds of visitors every week, turning this into a new hotspot for the city of Amsterdam.
De Ceuvel is a workplace for creative and social enterprises. It has been built on a water-bound plot of land that has been secured for a 10 year lease in 2012 through a tender held by the Amsterdam municipality. The group, brought together by Marjolein Smeele from Smeele Architectures, put forth the winning concept for reimagining the site of the former ‘De Ceuvel Volharding Shipyard’. The group included Space&Matter architecture, which designed the urban plan, and DELVA Landscape architects, which designed the phytoremediation garden that uses plants to clean the soil over time. Metabolic, a cleantech development and systems consulting firm, is responsible for the sustainability plan and the implemented technologies on the site.
By using low-tech techniques such as recycling houseboats and cleaning the soil by vegetation, the former shipyard is an innovative sustainability experiment. Construction began in early 2013 and thus far a diverse group of creative entrepreneurs have moved their offices into their boats.
Towards a Circular City
Today’s cities need new models to cope with the resource and sustainability challenges we face. De Ceuvel can be seen as an example of this alternative model. Eva Gladek, CEO of Metabolic explains: “De Ceuvel is like a tiny village. We are working to close the nutrient cycle and implement distributed infrastructure on a local level. De Ceuvel is a proof of concept for more circular models of development”.
At de Ceuvel, Metabolic has installed technologies that capture nutrients from waste streams, filter and collect water, generate energy, and monitor resource flows.
“De Ceuvel shows what is possible when you match ambitious sustainability goals with bottom-up urban development. The clean technology used on-site showcase possibilities in a future, circular economy.”
“We have envisioned the de Ceuvel site as a 'Cleantech Playground' for the exploration and testing of new technologies as they become available,” said Gladek. In collaboration with partners such as Waternet, Amsterdam’s public water utility, and Stichting Doen, research and development will explore how cities can transform from resource-drains to sustainable cities with a healthy metabolism.
Plants Cleaning the Soil
The brownfield’s polluted soil of is being cleaned through a process called phytoremediation, adding a regenerative element to the plan. This plan has been designed by DELVA Landscape Architects with consultation from the University of Ghent. The heavily polluted soil is now being purified by the specially selected combination of plants, resulting in a cleaner, greener and more biodiverse area than even a year ago.