Maps 2014 (39) All those Duch buildings

edificios nl

The Waag Society, a Dutch institute for the arts, sciences and technologies, has developed with designer and software engineer Bert Spaan a map of all the buildings in the country. The maps represents the age of the buildings with a colour code and displays some data about each element.

Maps 2014 (11) Dutch risks



As me, probably many of my readers are unable to read Dutch. But it is not that essential to consult, an online map by the Netherlands Provinces Association which displays the natural and technological risks affecting the country. I don’t know to which extent that map is trustworthy, but it seems a rather good idea to take the transparency for citizens to that level; sure the Dutch case is special, as everyone is aware of what it means to live under the sea level, but they have gone the extra mile. Setting up such a system can help citizens looking for a dwelling; seen from the other side, this can play a role in real estate pricing, which is not prone to make friends in some areas.

Crime maps in some American cities are similar in approach; but when it comes to security citizens have an intuitive idea of how their city works (albeit not always a real one). When we talk about these risks the Dutch are mapping, there can perharps be a lost memory (the 500 years flood has perhaps never been experienced by living people), or simply the disaster never happened.

Under the rug (6) Large harbours

Rotterdam is well known as one of the largest harbours in the world. It is expanding over the North Sea with ever increasing jetties in a sandy coastline (read

Less known is the new Yangshan deepwater port area, south of Shanghai, on Xiaoyang island. Linked to the mainland by a system of bridges that reach that location more than 15 km into the sea, it has a large pier over 4 km long aimed at container traffic.

Again, images taken from

Housing (6) Kiefhoek

The entrance to the neighborhood, with the two shops

The entrance to the neighborhood, with the two shops

Kiefhoek is a working class development built in 1925-1930 in south Rotterdam by J.J.P.Oud. It is one of the iconic housing experiences from the interwar period in Europe that most architecture students have to know around the world, as it exemplifies many concepts. The area consisted of 294 houses, two shops, a water distillery and two warehouses/workshops.

The homes were designed for low income families, with a standard of 61 sq m per unit, around the idea, common among architects at that time, that by reducing the housing unit to its minimum requirements the masses could receive a decent home. The architecture is therefore simple to reduce costs, but it is elegant, and the two shops at the entrance of the compound show how you can make more with less.

Its 1925, so there is no garage; but there is a small garden, today occupied partially by ancillary buildings. Google maps has an excellent coverage of the area, so I think it is a good idea if you indulge in a virtual walk around the area.


Bikes (1) What do 57 million euros buy in Amsterdam?

A bike parking at Alkmaar rail station, by dutch urban furniture maker VelopA

A bike parking at Alkmaar rail station, by dutch urban furniture maker VelopA

27% of all travel in the Netherlands are by bike (according to Pucher & Buehler, 2008), the highest ratio in the world. The average Dutch pedals 2,5 km daily (Spaniards just 0,1, as well as in the US…).

Over the last 20 years the use of bicycles has increased by 40% in Amsterdam, to reach 490.000 daily trips in 2012 and 2 million kilometers daily, and over 3.500 bikers per hour in the most used segments. There is a relevant congestion that generates a third of accidents. 56% of the severe traffic accidents imply a bike rider.

Amsterdam City plans to invest 57 million euros up to 2016 to improve the use of the bicycle. There will be 15 new km of red, high capacity, bike paths, and the main thoroughfares will be enlarged, giving as much priority as possible to cyclists. Up to 2020 there will be a coordinated investment of 120 million euros involving other administrations to solve the most conflictive nodes of the network, but the priority (90 millions) will be allocated to 38.000 new bike parking places (2.368 euros per spot). According to the city, the investment on bicycles is the most profitable for euro spent.

Just to compare investment magnitudes and the number of implied persons, I will use a Madrid example. The Cuatro Caminos underpass, opened in 2005 with a 540 m length (and a complex engineering to make the four lanes way cope with many buried infrastructures) has cost, according to the press, 25,7 million euros, to absorb 70.000 cars a day. If the 57 million euros in Amsterdam’s investment were to benefit just 30% of its bikers in 2012, this would mean some 147.000 daily trips, so the cost in euros/trip would be similar, but the CO2 and other greenhouse gases and pollutants emissions would be clearly down, as well as the associated nuisance. Besides, the Amsterdam investment should tackle congestion city-wide, while Cuatro Caminos is a point solution. Taking into account that building costs in the Netherlands are probably higher than in Madrid, a more adjusted intra-city comparison would be even more advantageous to the bike.

More data about cycling in the Netherlands at

Water (3) The Delta Plan

809_fullimage_deltawerken zeeland.jpg_560x350In 1953 the Netherlands were subject to terrible floods. As a country located on the Rihne delta, with a large portion of its land under the sea level, the risk of flood is always high, but at that time a sizeable storm over the Northern Sea, touching also Britain, Belgium and Germany, made the sea level rise over 4 meters as related to its usual level. As this happened by night, many people were caught while sleeping, and there were over 1.800 deaths.

A coastal protection plan was implemented, creating one of the most abstract and impressing contemporary landscapes, with a figure as target: 4.000 years, the period in which, as a statistical average, there would be a flood large enough to overcome that barrier with the same effects as the 1953 flood (in Spain, for instance, a lot is deemed subject to flood risk if that time is 500 years). The giant cost of the works and their maintenance has been compensated, at least partially, by a Dutch- specific know-how that is exported. I have visited the Netherlands, but never this area; the upper image (taken from shows an entireley abstract and artificial landscape, in which every element has a logic.

The original calculations for the Delta Plan have been altered by the climate change forecasts and the knowledge derived from the 2005 Katrina disaster in New Orleans. The Netherlands are reexamining their flood protection policy, wich is the same as saying they have to rethink half their country.