The aim of AmsterdamNoord.tmp has been to develop a strategic proposal to enable different forms of temporary use within an urban plan – the master plan for redevelopment of the northern IJ-Embankment in Amsterdam. In this approach, temporary use is integrated into all the stages of the new city development (as ‘soft program’) – being able to adapt its function and position during the course of the long-term development process. The project has been part of Urban Catalyst, an EU research project (2001-2003) on new strategies for the development of urban residual areas in European metropolises.

NDSM terrain, 2002


Urban developments are generally processes with long planning and implementation timelines. During their trajectory they are affected by all sorts of uncertainties (economic, programmatic, etc.). Besides, they often lack a sensitive relation to the available characteristics of the site and its potential users – they are mostly projected by external points of view and hardly generated by the forces at play in a certain urban context, making them less robust in their local, ‘on site’ capacities. With this in mind, and long-term development at hand, the municipality of Amsterdam Noord (SDAN) commissioned this research.

The strategic ‘infusion’ of time-based programs and architecture can work as a catalyst for urban development. A particularly interesting value of temporary use is that it pioneers city development and can point to a range of possibilities for the future. In such a development process, the temporary users give initiation to and dynamics for the development of a vital cultural, economic and social environment.


The project area – the northern IJ-Embankment in Amsterdam – is a rather complex urban setting. After a long period of ‘decay’ following the dismantling of the heavy ship construction industries, the area got entangled in an interplay between different authorities, investors and potential users – all with their respective agendas. The start of AmsterdamNoord.tmp has therefore been marked by unravelling and visualising the forces at play in this urban redevelopment process, in order to start ‘designing’ and steering their flow.

Then, a strategy has been made to keep the future development of the area to some extend ‘fluid’ within the framework of the master plan. Thus, the developments can respond to the changing reality during the 25 year trajectory. A catalyst function has been given to temporary program and architecture – with a number of motives:

– bringing new users in, utilising / activating the time-gap
– by-passing moments of market stagnation in a difficult economic situation
– flexible handling of restrictive regulations / legislations
– creating a more sturdy economic microclimate
– changing ‘image’ of the area
– activating the potential coming from external initiatives
– pioneering and promoting a stronger future character for the area

With the municipality of Amsterdam Noord (SDAN), the outline for a ‘platform’ for the infusion of temporary uses and users has been made. This platform stimulates, coordinates and offers expertise – both to temporary users and to the project managers responsible for the area. Because the platform can in principle act on the overall scale of the area (a few square kilometres) there is a large potential for temporary uses to find a place within its territory (either on short-term, or if desired more permanently). Finally, the prototype of a planning tool to handle the time-space occupation of the area has been made (see diagram). This tool ‘manages’ the necessary information-base both for the Municipality, the planners involved and the potential users and initiatives for the site.


The Urban Catalyst research at Amsterdam Noord has been in the unique position to research the possibilities for temporary use while being amidst the development of larger scale experiments in temporary use (like the NDSM workspace with 20.000 m2 and about 200 cultural users) on one hand and a large scale ‘try-out’ of open ended, dynamic planning (master plan Northern IJ-Embankment) on the other.

The ongoing involvement of the local authorities (SDAN) in the practical development of the area with implementation of temporary uses has been a very pregnant input for the architectural research. It particularly allowed for further thinking an sketching a wider scope of possibilities and scenarios for temporary use in Amsterdam.


  • [team ] Ana Džokić, Marc Neelen, Milica Topalović
  • [background ] AmsterdamNoord.tmp formed the core of Urban Catalyst at Amsterdam North and has been developed in collaboration with the Municipality of Amsterdam North (SDAN): Con Vleugel, Rob Vooren, and Ted Zwietering. Urban Catalyst is a research project that investigated the potential of temporary uses as a motor of urban change in five European cities. The project has been funded by the European Union.
  • [special thanks ] Eva de Klerk and Association Kinetisch Noord
  • [timeline ] april 2002 – june 2003
  • [publicity ] results published at (2003); presentation at Urban Catalyst conference (Berlin, 2003); Urban Catalyst, a-matter (2003); Temporary Amsterdam, lecture organised by Platforma 9.81 in the context of project Invisible Zagreb (Zagreb, 2004); the book Urban Catalyst: The Power of Temporary Use, came out ten years following the initial reaserach project, in 2013.