Liesbeth van der Pol
architect and partner Dok architecten

by Christa van Vlodrop

1. Background

Paternal family comes from Friesland, maternal family is from Brabant: as a child I was already fascinated and inspired by water (sailing) and green landscapes. Studied Architecture at TU Delft. I have been working as an independent architect since 1989. Since 2007, together with Herman Zeinstra, Gianni Cito, Ludo Grooteman and Martin Fredriks at the head of Dok architects. Between 2008 and June 2011, I was chief government architect.

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

Architecture is more than the casing of an activity, for example housing. The way the casing is made makes it beautiful and if you can enjoy it. What is the essence of urbanism: how beautiful is the street, do we enjoy it, is it carefully designed, good building, greenery, good moments? It's very simple, it's about building: both in urbanism as in architecture.

3. Best city

Amsterdam: rich history of planning and urban planning. The canals, beautiful architecture, the parks, all the water and the river. And the social policies, public housing and a good blend of residents. Amsterdam is intimate, as a child I rode my bike through the city as if it were my own domain. My second city is Vancouver, a city we can learn from: sustainable, green, the layout of streets, the pedestrian is more important than the car. Beautiful public spaces along the water, we should also be able to ride our bikes from IJmuiden to Almere!

4. Most beautiful building

The Maritime Museum. A bold building in the water! I was allowed to renovate it and that's something I am very proud of. It competes with the Palace on the Dam, but it's even better because it stands so fearless in the water. The building, designed by Daniel Stalpaert in 1656, was a warehouse, not suitable as a museum. We started with the Depot Building in 1997, the Maritime Museum followed soon after. With unprecedented pleasure I worked on this renovation, together with Rappange & Partners and Ney+Partners.

5. Most beautiful park or square

A definite attribute to Amsterdam is that parks compete with each other. Westerpark is the best, besides space for walkers and cyclists it has various other functions. Completely different characteristics than the Vondelpark, the Sarphatipark or the Oosterpark. Almost every garden of closed blocks has the quality of a park. And the diversity in trees along the canals and in the suburbs, all of this delivers us a green city.

6. Best public facility / urban infill

I have always been impressed with the 'Eikenplein’ in Amsterdam. With relatively simple means, this square has been transformed into a magical square. Very simple, with good materials, good lighting, good benches, beautiful trees. And it is 'beautifully' empty. Why not spruce up all the squares like this? Peace and quiet, suddenly make people want to stay.

7. Best 20th and 21st century innovations

Housing, the Housing Act of 1901 has put an end to the miserable living conditions of many people, and the various housing typologies, which were conceived for different audiences. Like HAT-units, houses, housing developments, zigzag and drum housing. A rich diversity.

8. Next groundbreaking innovation

In the future we are going to focus more on improving and renovating existing housing and conversion of offices into homes rather than new construction. We are inventing this as we speak. Making public spaces more sustainable and of better quality.

9. About the future of cities

Compact Netherlands: don't let cities expand therefore conserving the landscape. The city becomes more compact and (therefore) better.

10. Personal contribution to urban development

I work on wonderful, diverse projects within the urban atmosphere. Small squares, housing and shops, as in Nieuwegein and the ‘Zaantoren’ in Zaanstad.

11. Guerrilla in the city?

Nomadic areas, temporarily out of use, occupied by artists. Old buildings, like the Wibautstraat in Amsterdam, now hip and hot.