Green Garden Cities
The Algemeen Uitbreidingsplan AUP (General Expansion Plan) of Amsterdam not only aimed to expand urban development, but also to achieve a good balance between city and green space. The plan was based on the concept of the Garden Cities. These Garden Cities originated in England and were, as the name suggests, intended as urban communities in a rural setting. For the first time in European history, greenery became a determining factor in the urban design of a city. Green changed from a privilege of the few to a matter of course for many.
The designers of the Western Garden Cities of Amsterdam gave the greenery a careful place and thought about it at all levels. Where Van Eesteren thought in terms of bird’s-eye views and broad outlines, his colleague Jakoba Mulder looked at urban design at eye level. For example, the ‘pram distance’ was taken into account: mothers had to be able to sit 400 meters from their front door in a park to enjoy the sun with a child in the pram.
The greenery in the Western Garden Cities has been designed as a continuous green: from the house to the landscape. From the garden at the house to the residential courtyard of the block, and to the green strips along the roads. The green strips connect to park strips, which in turn extend to a park or the landscape.
Urban expansion quickly comes at the expense of a rapid accessibility of greenery. But the General Expansion Plan ensured that Amsterdam got ‘green lungs’, with the new urban expansions sticking out like fingers on a hand into the surrounding green landscape. As a result, residents of Amsterdam can be in a green area within ten minutes, even from the city center. This is unique in the world.
Sloterplas with parts of the green Western Garden Cities. Photograph: Siebe Swart