Meester Visser Square, Amsterdam

Meester Visserplein Amsterdam schetsontwerp Bureau B+B

For many years popular as a study object for architects and urban designers, Mr. Visserplein, dating from 1968, finally had to face the bulldozers. The large-scale urban interventions of the 1960s – the Wibaut axis, in combination with the IJ Tunnel – had also left behind a large hole. A rearrangement of traffic, which had included the removal of a roundabout, resulted in usable space in front of both the Portuguese Synagogue and the Film Academy. When viewed from central Amsterdam, the square looks like an end point: the space flees from the viewer. The broad access roads form a barrier. Tourists turn around and go in the opposite direction. The spot is neither charming nor dowdy, and can only be characterized as rough. The municipality asked Bureau B+B to devise a temporary concept for the space, to tide it over until there was more clarity as to a definitive use.

This temporariness provided an opportunity to assign a leading role to the narrative aspect, a focus of much attention in the designs of the firm of the present time. Inspiration for the design was drawn from both the present and the past. Mr. Visserplein is no longer empty: two robust steel buildings form a foil for the heavy traffic. On both sides of the tramway, the treillages surround and cover the roofs of the tunnel, presently used for TunFun indoor playground. Featuring hanging plantings, the structures form two ‘tropical glass houses’, resulting in an exotic intermediate spot for those who have just left the Plantage district (with the Hortus botanical garden and Artis zoo) behind them. Through the shape and height of the structures, this urban folly is reminiscent of the buildings demolished to make way for the square, and in this way forms a kind of kick-off for the new construction to come. Particularly in the summer, when the plantings making up the treillages are in full leaf and flower, the square itself seems to disappear. The hidden spots within are accessible to the public and house a coffee bar, sidewalk café, ticket office and the entrance to MacBike. The spaces can also be used to hold special events, parties and exhibitions. The design was ultimately not executed.

  • Location: Mr. Visserplein, Nieuwmarkt en Lastage, Amsterdam, Nederland
  • Concept design: 2009
  • Client: City of Amsterdam, Central District