Orphan City

Orphan City
Herman Hertzberger, De Drie Hoven, 1964–1974, (partly demolished 2014–2015)

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Orphan city
Herman Hertzberger, De Drie Hoven, 1964–1974, (partly demolished 2014–2015)

Between an abandoned orphanage and a contemporary container hotel, Failed Architecture traces a history of solitary urban living in Amsterdam

Like many cities in Europe, Amsterdam experienced dramatic demographic shifts after World War II. In the decades after the war, the city lost almost 20 percent of its prewar population. Many of the remaining families moved away from the crumbling inner city toward the outskirts and new satellite towns. Only in the past few years has the city’s population rebounded to prewar levels. Meanwhile, the social composition of the city has changed radically.

In 1947, multi-person households outnumbered single-person households by a ratio of 10 to 1. Today, single-person households account for 55 percent of all households and their share is growing. From students and young singles to elderly people and even business travelers looking for “a home away from home,” single occupancy is increasingly the norm. The overheated real-estate market and influx of tourists amplify the effect, forcing even more people to share flats or opt for ‘micro-apartments’.

Ever since the end of the war, planners and architects have tried to accommodate these demographic changes and the ongoing atomisation of society. But while the postwar period was characterized by the ideological conviction of the importance of community building through architecture, and fostering trust and familiarity among cohabitants, more recent developments have either dismissed any notion of shared space or become so exclusive that their so-called communal areas have become the sole domain of the (lonely) happy few. […]


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