Klaas de Boer
director Zuidas Amsterdam

by Christa van Vlodrop

1. Background

Studied architecture in Delft. In 1977 I started out as a designer at the Department of Public Works in Amsterdam, then project manager and then thirteen years as Director Planning Department until 2009. A great workplace, a mecca of attractive projects (Gaasperdam, four tracks between, national highway route 3, Eastern Docklands, IJburg). And now the Zuidas, also known as the ‘Financial Mile’ in Amsterdam.

2. Why are you fascinated with
architecture / urban development?

The fascination grew on me (I studied economics first). I found out that by debating you can manipulate spatial planning and that you actually can have an influence. By making certain choices, areas are developed, such as the Eastern Docklands, for example without the Piet Hein tunnel this area would never have looked as it does. I'm a big ‘believer’ of structural plans, you still need a plan to show your intentions. I have come to the conclusion that it works well to use initiatives that come from society.

3. Best city

Amsterdam, where I was born and raised. The city suits me well: it is walkable, it’s on the waterfront, has a harbor, the layout, lobes and green wedges. In which other city can you bike for ten minutes and find yourself in another world. And with our innercity with it’s canals, we are very priviliged. But also an authentic city like Naples: rough, you get the feeling that not everything is under control, a freestate idea.

4. Most beautiful building

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Not only on the outside, but also on the inside: the size, it makes you feel small, definately a wow experience. The National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam. It is situated so that you can see the building from all sides. And the lock and floodgate complexes in IJmuiden, robust and dynamic. Civil engineering assemblies. Best building in the future could well be the Rotterdam Central Station.

5.Most beautiful park or square

At home the Amsterdamse Bos by Ms. Mulder: gorgeous, beautiful areas, everyone will find something to their liking. Abroad, the High Line. The care with which it was designed, the colors and scents of Piet Oudolf, the street furniture, watching the Hudson from deck chairs. Good access to the buildings that are attached to it. Hard and soft, green and blue: excellent!

6. Best public facility / urban infill

The canals: immense area, the colors, materials, mathematical structure, that this could have taken place. The canal sections have been nicely renovated. IJburg, with its orthogonal design, turned out well.

7. Best 20th and 21st century innovations

Tunnel drilling, even in weak foundations, an absolute find. As a sailor, I find the new materials and fibers used for clothing and ropes innovative. And the mobile phone.

8. Next groundbreaking innovation

A concealed chip under the skin. What really bothers me is the chaos of public spaces at public transport stations: all the gates, each station its own model, nothing matches, no walking routes to discover. Fortunately, you can go through the Amsterdam Central Station from north to south and vice versa without having to go through gates.

9. About the future of cities

Now only half of the people live in a city, in 20 years 80 percent of the people will live in cities. The city is becoming bearable and healthier. The bike has been introduced in many cities, and perhaps we should use tram systems more for recreational purposes and more subways for rapid transportation. Food systems are changing and provisioning is ready for a change. More transport at night, more on the water. Source of studies and initiatives.

10. Personal contribution to urban development

I am really a public do-gooder! Since 1977 I have been doing my part. And now the Zuidas is a challenge. I'm trying to stimulate the area, with temporary projects like ArtZuid and the ‘pluktuin’.

11. Guerrilla in the city?

Zuidas 24/7!