The Staalmanplein neighbourhood in Cornelis van Eesteren's Westelijke Tuimsteden (Western Garden Cities) in Amsterdam, has been undergoing a radical regeneration operation since 2008. Whereas most housing blocks in this neighbourhood from the 1950s were demolished and replaced by new buildings, the social housing block in the UJ Klarenstraat was selected for an experiment: in 2012 the whole block was put up for sale as "Do It Yourself" (DIY) apartments. It turned out to be a successful strategy. The concept of DIY housing is a Rotterdam invention, put into practice for the first time in 2004-2007 in the dilapidated neighbourhood of Spangen. But the Klarenstraat project was the first modernist flat complex with walk-up houses that was renovated according to this method. In this paper I will elucidate the background of this project, but I will also look beyond the one-off success. I want to investigate whether the Klarenstraat strategy opens up an alternative way of dealing with the many Dutch neighbourhoods that are full of similar housing blocks. I will do this by dividing the success into 4 aspects: 1) the meeting of present-day's housing needs, 2) preserving the original architectural quality while creating a new, contemporary beauty, 3) improving the image of the neighbourhood and 4) attracting new population groups to the neighbourhood. I will conclude that each of these 4 aspects is repeatable under certain conditions. The key power of the Klarenstraat is its new way of envisioning the standard walk-up flats: not as 1950s tidy strait-jackets in which present-day people don't fit anymore, nor as a housing type that is best known as a décor for addressing societal presentday problems, but as a 21st century modest chic apartment building with a multi-layered past that makes it even more interesting, in a tangible and intangible sense.
14th International Docomomo Conference - Adaptive Reuse: The Modern Movement Towards the Future
Erasmus University Rotterdam

van Ulzen, P. (2016). UJ Klarenstraat, Amsterdam: The transformation of a 1950s modern housing block. In Proceedings of the 14th International Docomomo Conference - Adaptive Reuse: The Modern Movement Towards the Future (pp. 805–810). Retrieved from