Academy students design new wilderness in Amsterdam New West

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The winning student team from the Winter School 'Slim City' at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture designed a plan in which children from the Amsterdam district New West can safely play outside in an attractive 'new wilderness'.

The playgrounds in Amsterdam New West give an impresssion of being deserted this Winter. There is a large puddle of water under the igloo, the iconic climbing frame designed by Aldo van Eyck (1918-1990), of which thousands were produced. It is not nice to play outside in the cold rain, children would rather stay inside. But if it snows, according to Van Eyck, the children take over the city: they sleigh, throw snowballs, make snowmen - they are more visible than ever. When there is a thick layer of snow, the space available for playing extends beyond the boring, neatly raked-over playing grounds: children slide with their sleigh from slopes and there is perfect snow for snowball-fights in hidden places. Even parents cross country ski on grass strips.

Van Eyck let it snow playgrounds in Amsterdam. However, it has been the warmest winter for a century and high fences ('playing cages') have been placed around the uniform playing grounds in New West. Of the 860 playing grounds that Van Eyck designed, only 90 still existed in 2001. Now there is even more traffic and even fewer playing grounds.

In the winning design of the Winter School 'Slim City' (A New New West), new playing areas are created between the characteristic L-shaped blocks of flats and inner courtyards in New West. Together these form a 'new wilderness', which stimulates the imagination of the children. They can go on a voyage of discovery and, in this way, they get more exercise.

The design drawings for the new New West are very convincing. A 'realistic and complete plan', according to the jury (Professor Han Wiskerke and architects Rob Hootsmans and Naomi Felder). The team presented a 'well-substantiated and well-defined plan, with a large social effect that laid out a new identity for the neighborhood. 

A total of 19 students worked on innovative design proposals during the Winter School from 20 till 31 January 2014 in order to get residents of Amsterdam moving more and with greater regularity to prevent obesity. All design proposals were presented to the councillor for Health and Welfare of the municipality of Amsterdam. 

Booklet Winter School 'Slim City'