A green, liveable, hospitable and sustainable Binnengasthuis area and surroundings

The Binnengasthuis area, a relatively green area in the city centre of Amsterdam, is used extensively by residents, students, University of Amsterdam (UvA) staff, passers-by and tourists. Opposing interests and visions between residents, various other parties, and the UvA have led to collisions over time. Then in 1995, the UvA developed housing plans and suggested to build the library of the Faculty of Humanities in the BG area. The residents, united in VOL-BG, feared infestation of the public and liveable character and the spatial quality of the BG site.

For twelve years VOL-BG and UvA were in conflict until in 2012 the UvA withdraws the proposed development plan for the 'triangle'. In a new planning process the residents are invited to participate. VOL-BG wants to cooperate, but also bears the burden of 12 years of struggle. She decides to ask a third party, the Science Shop of Wageningen UR, for advice how to integrate so many different interests and concerns in one design.

The focus of the Science Shop Research has not been an integrated design, but an exploration of the conditions to achieve such an integral design. Two master students of Wageningen University and a group of graduate students from the Academic Consultancy Training have provided the foundation for this advice. In a framing analysis on a number of qualitative interviews with a selection of stakeholders was explored what is needed in order to achieve a constructive cooperation. In addition, from a spatial and phenomenological analysis of public space, design principles derived which can be used to influence the degree of inclusiveness and accessibility (suitability for different functions) on the BG area.

Framing Analyse

The framing analysis and design exploration both have led to the conclusion that building projects on the scale of the UB in the BG area ask for a (joint) analysis of the impact on the environment. The framing analysis shows a lot of similarities between the parties VOL-BG, UvA and SDC. However, at key points the impression persists that both sides face each other. Differences seem to relate to prioritization. The existing mutual agreements are an important starting point for bridging the differences. VOL-BG and UvA both emphasize the wish to cooperate. To achieve this it requires an extra effort from both sides.


Design criteria

The advice is to explore in a closed group, under the guidance of an independent facilitator whom is recognized by all parties, how cooperation can be promoted and the negotiation space can be enlarged. These reports can serve as the background document. Before searching for mutual agreement on the BG premises it is needed to have mutual agreement on the negation process first. VOL-BG and UvA are sentenced to one another because they share the same area now and will be doing so in the future. The current cooperation can be characterized as a distributive negotiation. Each Party shall endeavour in the negotiations to solve their own problem. Profit for the one automatically means loss for another. The danger of compromise is that they are unsatisfactory for all parties involved and that the maximum possible is not achieved.


The design study has shown that it is essential to establish with all relevant stakeholders what is the joint idea about the desired level of accessibility and inclusiveness of the BG area before design principles, such as those developed, can be applied to the design of the BG area. One crucial factor is whether the BG area should be accessible to everyone and what is the preferred role of the BG area for the inner city of Amsterdam.

In this perspective it is important that the discussion is conducted on the desirability of a city cycle route being part of the BG area.