‘Abandon all hope, he who grows up here’, that’s how the famous Dutch writer Gerard Reve described Betondorp. He wrote about this neighbourhood in his 1947 novel ‘De Avonden’ (The Evenings). Other famous inhabitants include the football player Johan Cruyff and the photographer Ed van der Elsken. The 1920s minimalist houses are built from cement because bricks were too expensive at the time. Betondorp inspired the German plattenbau.
This extension of the city was built around 1920 on the northern shore of the River IJ to provide housing for the growing population of labourers. In North, there were two large shipyards at the time. The workers lived nearby in these small lowrise houses, centred around Zonneplein. It’s still a close-knit community, where you can still hear the real Amsterdam accent and dialect. There’s a 1920s museum house on Meteorenweg 174.
Shortly after World War II, this neighbourhood full of white duplex houses was built. Because of their appearance, ‘het tuindorp’ (the garden city) was soon dubbed Jeruzalem. The houses were shared by two families, they had an upstairs and downstairs apartment. Some people even stowed folding beds in the hallway. Showers were only installed several years later in the kitchen. In 2014 they started to renovate these old duplexes.
In the mid-Nineties, a car-free and eco-friendly neighbourhood was built on the former site of Gemeentelijke Waterleiding (the city’s waterworks). Both the municipality and the neighbours wished to create sustainable homes in a healthy environment. The houses have green roofs, recycle rainwater, and there’s lots of green areas. Some of the old buildings have survived, such as the water tower and the machine room, where you’ll find cafe-restaurant Amsterdam.
The ‘Dubbeltjespanden’ (dime buildings) are an early example of social housing in Amsterdam. This intimate row of houses, just off the busy Mauritskade, was built in 1870. The cheap but well-built homes provided an alternative to the overpriced hovels many labourers lived in at the time. They paid a dime every week to the first Dutch
cooperative housing association. This street was completely renovated in 2012.