De Ceuvel

The area of ‘Ceuvel Volharding’ is a former ship wharf in Amsterdam. An abandoned and polluted site in the industrial and harbour area of Buiksloterham, in the north of Amsterdam. A plot located at the water with a special history, near the city centre of Amsterdam.


The starting point for the realization of the creative hub ‘De Ceuvel’ is the polluted of soil and water. Due to the activities of the ship wharf the site is heavily polluted with organic and inorganic pollutants. Current techniques that are used for purification of soil and water are costly, unsustainable and are often limited to hiding or moving the pollution to another site. The technique of phytoremediation, in which plants are used to stabilize, take-up or extract contamination from the soil, offers an alternative. On the site of ‘De Ceuvel’ this organic way of cleaning the soil results in a working landscape cleaning the soil and producing low-impact biomass. After ten years, the entire site is returned to the municipality of Amsterdam cleaner than we got it.

House boats

Old houseboats are put on land and transformed into 17 sustainable ateliers. At every step in the development process the highest level of sustainability that is financially viable, is pursued. The boats are insulated and equipped with a sustainable heat system, green roofs and solar cells. Wastewater from the site is purified in bio-filters and nutrients from the waste are re-used for the production of food. Organic waste (from toilets) of visitors and tenants of the boats is converted into energy. A standard connection to the municipal sewer is therefore unnecessary.


The purifying park consists of an undulating green plain of grasses, perennials, short rotation coppice and mature trees for the uptake and degradation of pollution. The plant species are specifically selected for this area; plants that suit the rugged nature of the industrial terrain of Buiksloterham. A raised wooden jetty ensures that there is no direct contact with the polluted soil. The trail winds through the planting and connects the different houseboats. The pruning of the park is not transported elsewhere but remains on the property and is used to create products from biomass. A biomass digester converts biomass into energy that is used in the area. The particular combination of plants represents a new layer in the landscape, which remained hidden before.  Aesthetic quality, that does not arise rom a pictorial, static landscape but is the result of a direct experience of the transformation of this area. Residents and visitors are drawn to the history of the place while they continuously define future use.

Alternative development

The involvement of residents and users is crucial. In the case of the Ceuvel the end users are already involved in an early stage. They are, after all, developer, (landscape) architects and user at the same time and are organised in the Association de Ceuvel.

The association has created a plan in which a basic set of rules and regulations is defined. This provides a strong framework with enough room for individual initiative and new ideas. This form of an efficiently organised bottom-up initiative differs from traditional project development and excludes inefficient participation processes.


Landscape Architecture: Delva

Project location: Korte Papaverweg 2, 1032 KB Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Design year: 2012-2014

Year Built: 2014

Team: DELVA, Metabolic Label, Space & Matter en Studio Valkenier

Metalco ArchInteligence

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