Keynote | Sjoerd Soeters, Soeters Van Eldonk architecten

Sjoerd Soeters will deliver the keynote address at the Back to the City 2016 conference at the Glasgow School of Art.

‘Back to the City’

This paper describes the generative processes in the work of Soeters van Eldonk architecten. Opening with an analysis of the differences between the city planning ideals of the modern movement and the lay-out of the traditional city, the paper uses the contrasting examples of Le Corbusier’s proposal for Saint-Dié, France, and the analysis of Parma, Italy in Colin Rowe’s Collage City, to explore a number of crucial differences between urban footprints, public space, road systems, length of facades, number of front doors, visual control and windows (after Jane Jacobs) and density of persons per square metre of public space. These characteristics define whether a place is successful or not as an environment for living, working and recreating in, and are used by Soeters van Eldonk in conjunction with length of view lines in an urban environments (after Jan Gehl) and distance between people in the public space as important criteria in the way they first engage with an urban plan. By putting these criteria first in the process of defining the size of the public space, Soeters van Eldonk attempt to create public realm that feels enclosed; the buildings that are necessary to form the walls of this enclosure are defined in the next phase of design sketching. All these aspects are utilised towards an ultimate goal – generating density of people both within and outside buildings, towards social interaction and therefore lively environments in which contact between people is frequent and pleasant.

Sjoerd Soeters will illustrate how these same ideas can lead to different and evolving solutions through three separate examples of the firms work: Java Island in Amsterdam, Sluseholmen in Copenhagen and Holland Park in Diemen, as well as the Inverdan project in Zaanstad where Soeters van Eldonk metamorphosed a vital part of the city centre over a period of fifteen years.

Java Island, Amsterdam – urban planning by Soeters Van Eldonk architecten (1991-2000)


Soeters started his own practice in 1979. Together with Jos van Eldonk he leads Soeters Van Eldonk architecten in Amsterdam. Initially the office concentrated specifically on producing architecture, but over the course of the last decade has developed significant urban design and planning expertise, with waterfronts, housing, offices and the redevelopment of inner cities and industrial areas important aspects of their work. Sjoerd Soeters and Jos van Eldonk also combine these activities with a continued architectural practice: in addition to a multitude of residential projects, the office has designed theatres, cinemas, the Amsterdam ArenA, retail centres, office buildings and private houses.

Soeters’s best known work includes the Helicon Building for the Ministry of Health and Sports in The Hague, Castle Leliënhuyze in Haverleij Den Bosch, the Piramides housing project in Amsterdam, the firm’s own office-buildings in Amsterdam, the Provincial Hall in Leeuwarden, the Cityhall of Zaanstad and five completely different and very personal houses in Bergen. The firm’s most well-known urban masterplans include Java-Island in Amsterdam, the new shopping area Mariënburg in the centre of Nijmegen, Haverleij Castle project in Den Bosch, Sluseholmen in the south harbour of Copenhagen, the masterplan for the revitalisation of the centre of Zaanstad, and most recently a new development of 3000 apartments under the name of Holland Park in Diemen.


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