Testing new functions in the historic city
Marineterrein is an experimental district, initiated in 2013 on a former naval yard owned by the Dutch Government, with the aim of devising and testing on-site solutions to urban and social issues. The municipality of Amsterdam has collaborated as its intended buyer in order to enable the transformation process of the area. The community working on this area represents a mix of innovative companies and organizations such as start-ups, restaurants, research institutes and organisations addressing urban sustainability issues. The development of the area is not defined by a pre-established plan, but rather continues to evolve and innovate by following an adaptive approach, according to the results and relevance of the experiments and research being carried out, in order to flexibly respond to new insights and emerging urban challenges.
The national government and the municipality of Amsterdam signed a cooperation agreement and established the Bureau Marineterrein as the project bureau to manage and assign the facilities of the area to suitable stakeholders and to plan the activities and projects to be developed on the site. It further informs the public about any developments and maintains an active dialogue with local residents. Several stakeholders are involved in the project, such as local residents, businesses and institutions in the Oosterdok area, the residents of Amsterdam, temporary tenants of the Marineterrein, companies and knowledge institutes in the city, and innovators throughout the Netherlands.
The Marineterrein was conceived as an incubator for innovation, bringing together a community of innovators, scientists and business to research and test on-site solutions to local (and global) issues surrounding pre-defined themes.
An incremental development process based on four phases (exploration of possible directions, feasibility of the projects, and the development and execution phases), will progressively and experimentally evolve the area into an urban district. Research will be carried out to determine which activities make the biggest contribution to the defined goals, and the companies and organizations of the Marineterrein must demonstrate their ability to innovate and willingness to share knowledge in order to be allowed to continue their activities on the site.
As the leader of the process, the Bureau Marineterrein selects the tenants and conducts the site’s programming, with the tenants being selected according to their ability to contribute to the research on the pre-defined themes. They are offered temporary contracts, lasting from 1-3 or 5-10 years, depending on the amount of investment required from the organizations. Through temporary programming, Marineterrein aims to ensure that the process remains flexible in responding to rapid changes in societal needs. The Marineterrein community is used as a veritable testbed for experimenting with and implementing innovations. These experiments can be scaled up if enough alignment is found with values of the site and the community. Further responsibilities of the Bureau Marineterrein are to foster and enhance interaction among the community members through diverse activities as well as to introduce initiatives that contribute to the aims of the area’s transformation and those of the organizations involved.
With its creative approach, the incremental development process of the Marineterrein has set an example as a territorial innovation and experimentation hub with numerous initiatives having been developed, tested and implemented that, besides influencing the area’s development, have also established prospective policies for Amsterdam at large. Moreover, the Marineterrein offers visitors and locals an important recreational space in the busy city centre and has had a significant social impact by offering opportunities in the neighbourhood, which has a reputation for several social issues.