The conservation of modernist urban ensembles

Case studies from Amsterdam

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Urban conservation, notably in Western Europe, grew from a reaction to the large Modernist monofunctional sub-urban expansion projects and programmes aimed at rationalising messy multifunctional historic cities. Conservationists responded reactively by celebrating the diversity and multi-layered character of the historic city. In the Netherlands a pragmatic urban conservation approach was developed which found its most clear expression in the Town- and City renewal programmes of the last quarter of the Twentieth Century. Concurrent to this a new dynamic was emerging: an awakening appreciation of Modernist ensembles, built according to the principles of the Modern Movement and the CIAM. The same pragmatic approach has helped to ensure the conservation of these expansive areas, albeit through somewhat radical means. This paper explores in brief the history of the urban conservation movement in the Netherlands, following which novel approaches to the conservation of Modernist utopian townscapes will be presented through recent and current projects from Amsterdam.