The development of the University Quarter is an area development in a special location in the city centre. It calls for a customised approach and a careful, integral consideration of all relevant aspects, wishes and interests. In view of this, the UvA and the municipality signed a cooperation agreement in 2018 in which they agreed, among other things, to draw up this Strategic Master Plan.
It was written over the past years with contributions from numerous stakeholders and by taking an extensive, integral approach to the relevant themes. The frameworks it sets out for further elaboration of the plans enjoy broad social support. The plan’s legitimacy is grounded in this support, in participation processes and in political decisions.
What is the status of the Strategic Master Plan?
The Strategic Master Plan is a framework for elaboration. It provides clarity to all parties about the way in which the plans for the University Quarter will be elaborated, about what can be expected and what cannot. With this plan, the municipality sets out the principles for designing modifications to buildings and outdoor areas. It also includes frameworks for the elaboration of such matters as management, sustainability measures and logistics. Where applicable, these matters need to be submitted for decision-making. Insofar as one or more environmental permits are needed for modifications to buildings and outdoor areas, the applications will be tested against the applicable zoning plans and other assessment frameworks such as the Welstandsnota, a policy document on planning regulations for the location and external appearance of buildings. Arguments for elaborated modifications take their legitimacy from this administratively adopted framework for elaboration.
What are examples of things the Strategic Master Plan addresses?
The UvA has carried out programmatic research into the question of where the University Quarter’s required functions would best come into their own. The Programme of Requirements of users (faculty, dean, students, researchers) plays a role in this, but so does the suitability of the available buildings (spaces and design), their location in the area, and the possibilities and costs of any modifications to the buildings. This study led to the elaboration of the desired distribution of functions.
In what cultural-historical context is the University Quarter being developed? A detailed analysis of the area’s cultural history was carried out to understand how the area took shape; this is the Cultural-Historical Argumentation report (rapport Cultuurhistorische Onderbouwing). The main angle of this report is the transformations of the area and its gates, courtyards and alleys over the centuries. It provides the argumentation for the steps and proposed modifications in the built environment, which are based on the report’s analysis and conclusions. Chapter 4 of the Strategic Master Plan presents the outline.
Chapter 5 of the Strategic Master Plan presents an explanation and problem analysis of the urban planning structure and design of the public space. It considers the orientation of the buildings with regard to the public space and the recurrent elements of gates, courtyards and alleys. The edges of and routing through the area are also discussed in detail.
All plans, knowledge and insights come together in an inspiring vision for the future: the Vision for the University Quarter. It lays the groundwork for the work to be done in the area, and is discussed in chapter 6. The connection with the city centre and a solid foundation for the future are essential to this vision. The mix of functions offers a colourful addition. After centuries of transformation, we are once more at the start of a new chapter for an area with a special atmosphere and an identity of its own.
Chapter 7 translates the principles of participation, the analysis of the area and the vision into the challenge: What interventions are needed to achieve the desired situation? Six themes are used: Identity, History and monumentality, Accessibility and use, Accessibility and logistics, Quality of life and safety, and Sustainability and greenery.
Following advice from the executive committee of the Amsterdam-Centrum borough, the municipal executive opened the draft Strategic Master Plan to public consultation. Interested parties, both individually and organised, will be able to comment on the plan at the public participation meeting on 30 March. They will also be able to comment in writing and via the Internet. All comments will be paired with a recommendation, which will be appended to the draft Strategic Master Plan – the so-called Memorandum of Reply. The Strategic Master Plan along with the reports of the discussions and the comments received will be submitted to the municipal council. Once the council reaches a decision, the Strategic Master Plan will be definitive. For information on participation and ratification, visit www.amsterdam.nl/universiteitskwartier.
The realisation of the draft Strategic Management Plan involved an intensive participation process between the municipality, the UvA and other stakeholders. The plan’s adoption does not end the involvement of stakeholders (including the academic community and the surroundings). Following adoption there will need to be discussions about the plan’s elaboration. The Strategic Master Plan participation process has led to good contacts between the parties involved on other issues as well, such as the plans for temporary management and outfitting in the coming period of intensive construction work.
Construction and outfitting activities will take place in the area in the years ahead. The sequence of activities will be as follows: design and renovation of the buildings, followed by the redesign of the public outdoor areas. This schedule does not yet include the concurrence and coordination of construction logistics with maintenance of canal-sides and bridges in the area. At the time of writing the Strategic Management Plan, investigations into the condition of the bridges and canal-sides, and decisions on measures to be taken and their timeline, are ongoing. The aim of the municipality and the UvA is to dovetail these activities in the best way possible. The new University Library is under construction. See also the indicative planning overview of the implementation of the various projects, page 108 of the Strategic Master Plan.
An architectural-historical assessment of how to treat the monumental values present is required for all buildings. The Strategic Master Plan reflects the urban planning frameworks. These frameworks are elaborated for each building, with the requirement to indicate how the monumental values are being treated. The municipal department for Monuments & Archaeology and the Cultural Heritage Agency advise on this as part of the permit process. In addition, the Spatial Quality Committee assesses the design using applicable aesthetics criteria, which include urban planning integration, visual quality and treatment of monumental values.