Amsterdam’s Canal District: Origins, Evolution, and Future Prospects

Edited by Jan Nijman

© 2020

In terms of design, scale, and blending of ecologicical and aesthetic function, Amsterdam’s seventeenth-century Canal District is a European marvel. Its survival for four centuries is a testament to its ingenuity, reflected in its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. The Canal District today is an extraordinary example of resilient historic design and cultural heritage in a living city, but it is not without present-day challenges: in recent years, its urban ecology has become subject to severe pressures of global tourism and supergentrification.

This edited volume brings together seventeen reputable scholars to debate questions about the origins, evolution, and future of the Canal District. With these differing approaches and perspectives on the Canal District the contributions render a collection where the whole is much more than the sum of the parts. The book breaks new ground in our understanding of the District’s historic design, its evolution over four hundred years, and the fundamental issues in future-facing strategies and policies. While the main focus is clearly on Amsterdam, the discussions in this collection have an important bearing on broader questions of urban historic preservation elsewhere, and on questions about enduring urban design.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 264 pages
  • Illustrations: 60
  • Dimensions: 8.6in x 0.9in x 8.7in
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SKU# SP004402

  • PUBLISHED AUG 2020

    From: $32.50

    Regular Price: $50.00

    ISBN 9781487500344
  • PUBLISHED SEP 2020

    From: $32.50

    Regular Price: $50.00

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This book chronicles the Amsterdam’s 17th-century Canal District District’s origins and historical evolution over 400 years and debates its future prospects under pressures of global tourism, gentrification, and rapid economic change.

Amsterdam’s Canal District: Origins, Evolution, and Future Prospects

Edited by Jan Nijman

© 2020

In terms of design, scale, and blending of ecologicical and aesthetic function, Amsterdam’s seventeenth-century Canal District is a European marvel. Its survival for four centuries is a testament to its ingenuity, reflected in its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. The Canal District today is an extraordinary example of resilient historic design and cultural heritage in a living city, but it is not without present-day challenges: in recent years, its urban ecology has become subject to severe pressures of global tourism and supergentrification.

This edited volume brings together seventeen reputable scholars to debate questions about the origins, evolution, and future of the Canal District. With these differing approaches and perspectives on the Canal District the contributions render a collection where the whole is much more than the sum of the parts. The book breaks new ground in our understanding of the District’s historic design, its evolution over four hundred years, and the fundamental issues in future-facing strategies and policies. While the main focus is clearly on Amsterdam, the discussions in this collection have an important bearing on broader questions of urban historic preservation elsewhere, and on questions about enduring urban design.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 264 pages
  • Illustrations: 60
  • Dimensions: 8.6in x 0.9in x 8.7in
  • Reviews

    "The marvel of Amsterdam’s famed Canal District is the result of a 400-year history spanning the rise of early modern capitalism and the liberal state, fueled by bourgeois mercantile elite and riches plundered by a slave-trading empire, and continual evolution in response to economic, population, and technological change. It is also a story of remarkable urban planning and water management, innovative urban design, and an approach to historic preservation that has been remarkably successful in both maintaining the district as a living place while conserving its built heritage. Jan Nijman’s superb, richly illustrated collection offers a clear window into the fascinating history of the Canal District, how it adapted and changed over the centuries, and the challenges that it now faces as a World Heritage site and major tourist destination. Cities and their planners around the world have much to learn from this important book. "


    Jennifer Wolch, College of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley

    "An impressive volume of collective scholarship on one of the world’s most distinctive city districts. Contemporary issues and challenges facing this World Heritage Site are set in the context of the deep historical layering of Amsterdam’s Canal District and its architectural, cultural, and economic legacies."


    Paul Knox, University Distinguished Professor, College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and Founding Dean, Honors College, Virginia Tech

    "Amsterdam’s Canal District is a very useful example of a survey for planners and stakeholders of important World Heritage sites."


    Zef Hemel, Wibaut Chair, Urban and Regional Planning Program, University of Amsterdam

    "A veritable treasure for anyone interested in Amsterdam, the history of the Dutch Golden Age, or contemporary ecological concerns about how to most meaningfully conserve an urban space of immense historical and cultural value without turning it into a ‘lifeless museum.’ With its expert historical essays balanced against sections devoted to conservational concerns, this book is a beautifully illustrated volume with a wonderful collection of reproductions of (often rarely seen) urban landscape paintings, engravings, maps, charts, and urban engineers’ sketches. A true monument to the lasting value and splendour of the Amsterdam Canal District."


    Jonathan Israel, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
  • Author Information

    Jan Nijman is Director and Distinguished University Professor at the Urban Studies Institute of Georgia State University, and professor of Geography at the University of Amsterdam.
  • Table of contents

    List of contributors
    Dedication
    Preface

    1. Introduction: The Canal District in Global Perspective – Jan Nijman

    PART I: HISTORIC ORIGINS
    2. Between art and expediency: Origins of the Canal District – Jaap Evert Abrahamse
    3. Designing the world’s most liberal city – Russell Shorto
    4. A privileged site in the city, the republic and the world economy – Herman van der Wusten

    PART II: EVOLUTION
    5. Bourgeois homes: The elite spaces of the Canal District – Cle Lesger and Jan Hein Furnee
    6. The architectural essence of the Canal District: Past and present – Freek Schmidt
    7. The Canal District: A continuing history of modern planning – Len de Klerk

    PART III: 21ST CENTURY CHALLENGES
    8. Preservation through transformation: Amsterdam through the lens of Barcelona – Mark Warren, Melisa Pesoa and Joaquín Sabaté
    9. The Canal District as a site of cognitive-cultural activities: “A miracle of spaciousness, compactness, intelligible order” – Robert Kloosterman and Karin Pfeffer
    10. Cause Célèbre: The contested history of the Canal District – Susan Legêne and T.C. Ver Loren van Themaat
    11. The Canal District as home: Living in a commodified space – Fenne Pinkster and Willem Boterman

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