Amsterdam, Netherlands

The future’s bright in Amsterdam

The future’s bright in Amsterdam

Charlie Howard

I was 18 when I last visited Amsterdam. I had just left school and was totally disinterested in all things cultural, including clogs and tulips. A cliché perhaps but I don't remember much of our short visit which must be the same parting recollection of most of the stag-parties that go there - and there are a lot. In less than two hours from Gatwick, we arrived by train into Amsterdam Central from Schiphol Airport. It immediately strikes you that the place is clean and organised and the people appear to be honest and friendly. It seems a far cry from London's transport hubs where the employees are reluctantly fulfilling their basic duties at best.
There are over 160 canals and 1000 bridges that divide the heritage makeup of terraced Dutch architecture, interspersed with sympathetic modernity that help restrain the flow of traffic on the cobbled streets. The perception is that most of Amsterdam is pedestrianised, resulting in an unruffled pace of human activity. Much of the residential accommodation is vertical and apartments within terraced housing provide the nest from which the dweller can emerge and live outside during their waking hours to enjoy the wide range of leisure uses on their doorstep.
Restaurants and bars do not simply encourage intense consumption followed by a bill. They are places to meet friends and dwell. A living room outside the home. The apartment is now just the bed and the bathroom, devolving the dining room into obsolescence. Interaction and activity on the streets is how people live here, creating a feeling of vibrancy and sincere place-making. Local food markets thrive, uses are merged into streets that bustle with cyclists and walkers, and tolerance and diversity are linked harmoniously.