Amsterdam canal district
: locating and mapping attributes of outstanding universal value

  • K.E.A. Claus

Student thesis: Master


Book 1: Research report This research analysed the Amsterdam canal district as case study of a World Heritage (WH) property within the urban context. The aim of the research is to identify, locate and analyse attributes that convey Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and to uncover and investigate potential threats. A series of visual attributes related to building facades were identified by analysing the WH nomination documents and their evolution over time was mapped using the Herengracht as study area. Results indicate extensive changes to building facades in categories such as facade, streetscape, style and silhouette. No major changes to the facade were found after 1943. However, transformations behind the facade due to building consolidation was identified as a current threat. This phenomenon was mapped and the results indicate various changes occurring behind the facades by the consolidation of buildings into larger units. Consolidation has a direct impact on other attributes such as parcellation, facade, function and typology and is identified as a trend, lined to urban development, that can severely affect the OUV of the property and needs to be considered within Amsterdam's management system. Book 2: Design proposal This project considers the issue of urban development within areas of cultural significance and explores this problem within the Amsterdam canal district, where development needs to take place without threatening the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property as a World Heritage site. Building consolidation was identified as a threat to the OUV of the Amsterdam canal district because in multiple cases, it has caused groups of historic buildings to be replaced with 'large scale' structures. As opposed to advocating the reconstructing of original buildings, this project develops a strategy for the use of these ┬┤large scale┬┤ buildings based on the allocation of scale appropriate functions and the adaptive re-use of buildings with the intrinsic qualities and historic value of the buildings as starting point for design decisions. This strategy is tested with a design proposal that redevelops an existing 'large scale' building (Herengracht 295) into the "Amsterdam Fashion Hotel". By enabling urban development projects to take place through the critical and scale appropriate redevelopment of existing 'large scale' buildings, such design projects can relieve the pressure on the surrounding historic buildings and contribute to the sustainable urban development of the Amsterdam canal district as a whole. Book 3: Policy analysis This research investigates the applicaton of cultural heritage management practices within the Amsterdam canal district as World Heritage property. With specific attributes that convey the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property as search criteria, the research uncovers how the balance between development and conservation is controlled by current policy. Selected architectural attributes, such as facades and roof structures, were identified and related to Amsterdam's management system by 1) Clarifying the complex management framework that form the background to development and conservation decisions, and 2) Using this framework to identify specific policies and management measures that apply to the selected attributes. The research uncovered a complex series of interrelated management measures e.g. the review process related to building permit applications, the guidlines provided by spatial/aesthetic/monument policies, the role of expert opinions and case specific negotiations, the classification of buildings into various conservation categories and development restrictions based on the protection of historic value. An analysis of these management measures uncovers the relationship between management practices and cultural significance. The results identify how development and change is controlled ans specifically, to which extent attributes could be changed or protected in future.
Date of Award31 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBernard J.F. Colenbrander (Supervisor 1), A.R. Roders (Supervisor 2) & L. Veldpaus (Supervisor 2)

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