De Hallen From a no-go Area to a Hotspot
My Liveable City|January - March 2017

Architect André van Stigt describes how a former tram depot has been transformed into a place for leisure, crafts and education.

History and location

Historically, during the late 19th-century expansion of Amsterdam, The Halls (De Hallen, in Dutch), was a tram depot in a closed enclave characterised by long closed brick blocks with monumental facades facing the street. De Hallen was a traditional, functionalist complex, necessary for the maintenance of the first electric trams at the beginning of the 20th century. The complex was hidden between the Ten Kate Market, Kinker Street and Tollens Street, in the middle of a working and lively neighbourhood.

Though an active area, De Hallen was only accessible for those who worked at the tram depot. At the beginning of the 20th century, many people found work here. There were different kinds of workshops in the depot for craftsmen, like wood and metal workshops as well as a forge. There was also a laundry and space for the offices of the company. De Hallen, Amsterdam, is a national monument built in phases between 1901 and 1928 and has some very characteristic design features. The structure of the long halls (7) and the passage at the end is unique. The halls were accessible from two sides.

All doors opened into the transverse hall called the ‘traversing hall’. This housed a locomotive wagon track, so that the trams could be easily moved to another track or hall without changing direction. At the eastern end of the wagon track was a turntable to rotate the trams by 90 degrees and enable them to ride out to Tollens Street through the eastern exit. De Hallen is the only tram depot in the Netherlands, which still has its original characteristic series of roofs.

In 1997 the tram depot lost its original function and many different new users found a temporary working space in the empty halls. For nearly a decade many initiatives were developed in co-operation with the local municipality architects, developers, residents and the new temporary users. However, all plans failed due to lack of finance and local resistance. It was as if no suitable adaptive reuse could be found for De Hallen and the building may have to be demolished.

Heritage Protection

However, a group of residents and architects in the neighbourhood committee for the De Hallen area were convinced that this building needed reuse and preservation. In order to avoid demolition, in 1999 they obtained the status of a national monument for the building complex. One of the architects came up with Covent Garden, London, as a reference for adaptive reuse. De Hallen seemed to fit the vision of ‘an oyster with a pearl inside.’

From initiative to Foundation TROM

After 10 years of commercial plan-making failed, a social plan was developed and was successful. In the spring of 2010, local residents, future users, architect André van Stigt and other stakeholders and supporters set up the Tram Remise Development Company (TROM). The aim of the TROM initiative group was to give new life to a beautiful industrial monument with a visibly rich history in a part of Amsterdam where such monuments are rare, so that people could be proud of their surroundings.

Brief description of the conservation work

The challenge was to bring the building into the 21st century and to open and connect it to its surroundings. The future users were closely involved in making the complex a magnet for people from all over the city and creating an area where users would find it a pleasure to work.

Scope of the project

1. To make a new, sustainable and high quality complex at De Hallen in West Amsterdam.

2. Connect with the needs and desires of the neighbourhood and give the complex a metropolitan atmosphere.

3. To make the realisation and operation financially feasible, without any governmental subsidy.

4. To open up the building for the public and to connect it to its surroundings.

The TROM Foundation will remain involved in the project for at least 10 years. They will also be responsible for the maintenance contract, signed with the contractors at the beginning of the process. So from the very beginning the contractors are made responsible for the conservation of the building for the future.

Cooperation

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