Urbanist's Guide to Amsterdam

Amsterdam Intro ・ Feb 2, 2021

Photo by Aquiles Carattino on Unsplash

I've moved to Amsterdam from Kyoto last year, in midst of the pandemic. It's been an interesting journey with ups and downs, but I've still managed to encounter some initiatives and places that I love to share. Hopefully the world would get back to normal in the near future, where we can start enjoying strolling cities again.

Things to do, places to go

  • De Cuevel is an urban 'playground' for the exploration and testing of new green technologies and social enterprises adjacent to the van Hasselt kanaal off the river IJ in Amsterdam North. The site was formerly a derelict and polluted shipyard, which then renovated into a regenerative urban oasis. You see many small, creative offices using the old, recycled ships and boat here, and it's always fun to walk around here.

  • De School used to be a technical school, and is famous for a nightclub — it also has a concert venue, a restaurant, a café, an exhibition space and a gym. It hosts a lot of events there too.

  • I had an oppotunity to have a chat with Martijn de Waal, a lecturer of Play and Civic Media at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and a director of Hackable City. The Hackable City is a research project that explores the potential for new modes of collaborative citymaking, set in Buiksloterham, a brownfield regeneration project in Amsterdam North. He also runs Media Architecture Institute, which is worth checking out.

  • I've been always curious about A City Made By People. They are a creative platform for city enthusiasts, and they organize various events, workshops, talks and publications to encourage people to become better citizens.

  • Who doesn't wanna taste the flavour of Amsterdam? I found Chateau Amsterdam right next to Studio KU++, an architectural model workshop based in Amsterdam. Chateau Amsterdam produces some great 'urban' wine, by collaboration with farmers from all over Europe. Wine made in the city, for the city.

  • Speaking of a beverage, BRET is a great restaurant & club all about beer, sustainability and good music. Don't forget to take a look at PIT Lab next door — the container building structure is creative and playful.

  • Mediamatic is an art centre dedicated to new developments in the arts since 1983. They organize lectures, workshops and art projects, focusing on nature, biotechnology and art+science in a strong international network.


  • Volume is an independent magazine that sets the agenda for architecture and design. It's fairly famous in Japan, and I've been a fan for a long time.

  • Aside from Valume, my favorite is Failed Architecture. "Architecture continues to fail because we are stuck in a global economic system which puts profit above everything else" they say, thus the name Failed Architecture. Their Podcast is worth listening to as well.

Organization / initiative

  • Amsterdam-based CASCOLANDis an international network of artists, architects, designers and performers. They organize various interdisciplinary interventions in public space, aiming at the development of an ecological and socially sustainable society.

  • A strategic think tankStudio Monnik inspired me a lot when they published the book Tokyo Totem. Nowadays they focus on future scenario making.

  • I visited a beautiful community garden run by I can change the world with my two hands in the western part of Amsterdam. I even became a member, and I bring my organic waste once in a while to their compost station, There are many urban gardening initiative out there in Amsterdam, but I believe this is one of the most open, participatory projects run by a strong, highky motivated community.

  • Waag operates at the intersection of science, technology and the arts, and one of their initiative Smart Citizens Lab works with citizens, scientists and designers to tackle environmental issues.

  • Placemakers is an interdisciplinary and creative team for urban activation.

  • What Design Can Do is an international platform that uses design as a tool for ecological and social change.

  • Pop Up City is an agency for urban transformation based in Amsterdam. They are good at branding, content creation, and concept development.

  • I live in a boathouse in the Amsterdam West, so I observe the canal water everyday — and it makes me feel deeply sad to see that there are often a lot of plastic trash floating. This is how I discovered Plastic Whale, the first plastic fishing company in the world. They collect plastic from the canal with boats, and recycle them to make the products with them. They offer various packages for companies to organise a plastic finishing, and 450 different companies have already gone plastic fishing with then.

Other cities in the Netherlands

  • Independent School for the City is a Rotterdam based one-year educational program for post-graduate students from all over the world, and offers a range of classes, lectures, and programs all about cities and urbanism.