Almere, The Netherlands

Almere, first an overflow suburb of Amsterdam, underwent its first phase of construction in the southwest corner of Southern Flevoland in 1968. The city was conceived as a form of decentralized urbanism to solve regional problems in Amsterdam including rapid population growth, suburbanization, and traffic congestion. The goal was utopian: to build a city with a long-term flexible plan, allowing for social and technological changes to enable a healthy natural environment along with a diverse population and a stimulated urban culture. Since its inception, Almere has been one of the fastest growing cities in Europe.

The city was originally designed as a series of neighborhoods with their own facilities and identities, linked through a shared infrastructure. By 1973 “Almere 1985” was published, a polynuclear hierarchical plan for the city. In the 1970s the city established four main towns: Almere Haven (Port), Almere Stad (City), Almere Buiten (County), and Almere Hout (Wood). Reflecting urban development thinking of the time, Almere Haven is characterized by its maze of so-called “cauliflower neighbourhoods”. Playful street patterns full of cul-de-sacs were designed to encourage social contact.

The 1980s were marked by competitions for free plots of land for people to build houses they had designed themselves. This approach to unique architecture was reintroduced in 2006, making Almere a ‘do it yourself’ city in its attempt to attract residents and developers. The mid 1990s marked a change in the city with an attempt to create a downtown space for economic reasons. This focus on economic development and boosterism has changed the city’s earlier idea of providing homes for migrant people to offering homes to wealthier people.

By 2009 at least 134 nationalities are represented in Almere, while almost 17% of the total population were living at or under the poverty level; half had been that way for 3 years. Almere nonetheless continues to think toward the future with hopes to build two remaining nuclei: Almere Pampus (Out) and Almere Poort (Port) by 2025.