Discover the area
Where did I end up?
Your work location in a historical bird's eye view.
If you look out of the window of your workplace on the Amstel Campus, you see the Wibautstraat, one of the busiest roads within the A10 Amsterdam ring road. But this street did not always look like this. Imagine you were a bird flying over this area centuries ago, what would you see here?
In the Middle Ages, this was a typically Dutch green peat meadow area. After our forefathers had mastered the technique of reclamation, the Overamstelse polder was created here in 1630: a reclaimed area between the city and the Watergraafsmeer. A polder mill pumped the water away, towards the Zuiderzee. In 1663, the ring of canals was extended to the east. The 5-metre-high city wall was also extended to a total length of 6.3 kilometres, eventually including 26 bastions and 8 gates on the inner side of the Singelgracht. Weesperpoort arose roughly above today's Weesperplein metro station. At night, the city gates closed to travellers and 'strange scum'.
More and more factories settled in this polder just outside the city. And Weesperpoort station was built right on the site of today's Amstel Campus. Trains to Utrecht left from here in 1843. Later, the trains ran on to Germany. Rhijnspoorplein 1, the address of the Benno Premsela House, still refers to this railway line. The steam tram to Het Gooi departed just east of here, starting in 1874. And next door came the Amstel Brewery. This grew into a huge beer factory. After Heineken took over 'Amstel', brewing stopped on this spot in 1983. After this, the buildings were demolished and replaced by houses. Only the former head office of the brewery on the Mauritskade remained. It now houses the Amsterdam Fashion Institute of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam.
After a change in the law in 1874, houses were also allowed to be built outside the Singelgracht. The Weesperzijde strip and the Oosterpark neighbourhood came into being in this area. Residents strolled through the Oosterpark, designed in English landscape style. From 1898, doctors treated the sick in the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis and pregnant women gave birth in the Rijkskweekschool voor Vroedwrouwen on Camperstraat. With the arrival of a Catholic hospital, Catholics found the Oosterpark neighbourhood even more attractive. But better-off Jews also exchanged their homes in the old Jewish quarter for a good house in the new neighbourhoods. A driving force behind the arrival of good, beautiful and relatively affordable workers' housing was alderman Floor Wibaut. Between 1914 and 1931, he combined entrepreneurship with socialist ideals for public housing. A well-known slogan in his time was 'Wibaut? Wibaut!". You can see 'him' standing on a plinth at the head of Wibautstraat.
The eternal waiting in front of the closed barriers of all those train and tram lines was an eyesore to local residents. Residents' groups lobbied and protested for a better flow of traffic in the neighbourhood. And with success: from 1939, the trains ran on a raised railway embankment. Pedestrians, cyclists, horses, handcarts and cars could now move freely through the viaducts. The new Muiderpoort Station and Amstel Station took over the role of Weesperpoort Station. The latter station was demolished after World War II and replaced by office buildings:
- The Labour Council, later the Social Insurance Bank (from 1951) to now the Benno Premsela Building;
- The Central Tax Office (from 1958) à now the Kohnstamm Building and the Theo Thijssen Building;
- The (old) Wibaut Building with the municipal departments Building and Housing Control, Housing Service and Public Works (from 1961) à now the new Wibaut Building and the Muller-Lulofs Building.
The war also left its mark by the loss of most of its Jewish fellow citizens. In the famine winter of 1944-1945, many city dwellers had stripped the wood from uninhabited houses to keep warm. The deplorable state of many of those houses, the non-returned residents and the ambitions of the city council resulted in a metamorphosis of the area between Amstel Station and the current City Hall.
Plans for the construction of metro lines through the city became serious from 1968 onwards. Many houses would be demolished for this, while there was also a housing shortage. Activists protested strongly against the city council's plans and empty houses were squatted. Despite the protests, the eastern metro line was built and Weesperstraat and Wibautstraat changed dramatically. In keeping with the spirit of the Cold War, Weesperplein metro station was given a dual function: if necessary, it could also serve as a nuclear shelter.
Renovation and new construction have also characterised the Amstel Campus area since 2008. With 27,000 students and staff, it is the largest campus of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam. The HvA also cooperates here in the Knowledgemile. In this, organisations and companies stimulate innovation in the capital. see: www.knowledgemile.org
Since 2002, the Oosterpark has housed the National Monument to the History of Slavery. Every year on 1 July, the abolition of slavery in 1863 is commemorated and celebrated with the Keti Koti festival. Keti Koti comes from the Sranantongo language and literally means 'chains broken'. On 1 July 2021, Mayor Femke Halsema apologised at the commemorative event in the Oosterpark for the city of Amsterdam's role in slavery's past.