Almere City, Architecture Utopia in Central Netherlands

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Almere City may not be on your list if you are planning a visit to the Netherlands. Perhaps you have never heard of it. This unique place, located some 25 kilometers east of Amsterdam, is the youngest city in the Netherlands. As you can imagine, it was built on reclaimed land! We’ve been to Almere several times, and love it.

Almere excels in one thing: the abundance of cool modern architecture. The local authorities hired some of the world’s top architects to embellish Almere’s city center. The city’s green residential neighborhoods are interesting too. All you have to do is rent a bike and let this beautiful city conquer you.

Almere Esplanade

Brief History of Almere

Early Years

Almere lies on the southwestern corner of Flevopolder Island. The island was created by draining the water from the sea between 1955 and 1968. With an area of 970km2, it is the world’s largest artificial island. The original plan envisaged agricultural land on this vast island. However, after World War II, there was a shortage of houses. Thus, it was destined for residential use.

The first houses were finished in 1976 in the Almere Haven borough. Three years later, the first houses opened in Almere’s central borough Almere Stad, and in 1980 works in Almere Buiten commenced. For the first two decades, the city looked like a giant dormitory. While residential areas mushroomed all around, only a small section of the city center was ready.

Almere Architecture

City Development

In 1994, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) won the international competition for Almere’s city center. They designed the large pedestrian area above the street we see today. Thanks to the plaza, cars and pedestrians are separate. They also tilted the new pedestrian grid to the existing one. Renowned architect Rem Koolhaas led the Almere project.

At the same time, Almere grew on all sides. All three old boroughs grew in size, and two new ones opened. Almere Hout was added in 1991 and Almere Poort in 2000. The final (sixth) borough, Almere Pampus, is yet to be built. Today, more than 200 000 people live in Almere.

Eilandenbuurt Neighborhood

Neighborhoods

Almere City Center

When we talk about Almere City Center, we mean the central area of Almere Stad. However, Almere Haven and Almere Buiten have their own, albeit smaller, centers. The city center goes from south of Almere Centrum train station to Weerwater Lake.

The first street you’ll see after the station is Stationstraat, part of the older city center. Once you step on Stadshuisplein (City Hall Square) at the end of the street, you’ll notice recent architecture. This is where the new city center project starts. Shopping malls, a city hall, a library, a cinema, a museum, and a theater occupy the area.

Masterplan Almere Centrum

Residential Neighborhoods

While the city center has few trees and is dense, the residential neighborhoods are lush green. Most blocks have both single-family houses and flats. Some have one or the other. A street, a railroad line, or a canal, enclose these big residential blocks. They are everywhere!

To tour the best residential areas, we biked to Almere Buiten. Our lovely guide from Visit Almere took us by the Floating Houses on Fluittocht Canal, the unique Hennahof Estate, the three red towers of Rode Donders, and the beautiful Eilandenbuurt Neighborhood. Some of the best Dutch modern architecture in the world!

Hennahof Estate

Architecture of Almere – Top Buildings

City Hall

Address Stadhuisplein 1

Architect Dam and Partners Architecten (Amsterdam) 1986

The first building you’ll notice as soon as you step on the Stadhuisplein is the monumental City Hall. Completed in 1986, it was the first government building in Almere Center. The original building had three wings going in different directions from the round entrance hall and auditorium.

The same architects added the semicircular wing on Landdrostraat and the tower above the main lobby in 2004. Fokkema & Partners Architecten completely redesigned the public service area in 2013. Enter the grand hall on a working day, and you’ll love the views.

Almere City Hall

The New Library

Address Stadhuisplein 101

Architect Meyer en Van Schooten Architecten (Amsterdam) 1988

One of the best things to do in Almere is to visit its grand New Library. The outside is dark and rigid, with heavy horizontal concrete elements containing a patterned relief. However, as soon as you enter its magnificent hall, you’ll love it! This library is lively, open, and so inviting! As avid readers, we believe it’s one of the nicest in the world!

On the lower level, you can have coffee while reading an international magazine. In the theater/cinema you can watch a movie or a performance show. They also organize regular exhibitions and workshops. Go to the top floor to enjoy some of the best views of Almere. You’ll be able to see the Jewel building from above.

Almere New Library

The Jewel

Address Stadhuisplein 1315

Architect David Chipperfield Architects (London) 2006

The commercial and residential complex called the Jewel is the third most interesting building on Stadhuisplein square. If you look at it on the Google satellite you’ll see a group of houses in a row. On the other hand, if walking by, you’ll think it’s just a shopping mall.

In reality, it is both. The famous architecture team decided to build houses on top of the shopping mall. They hid the houses inside a courtyard surrounded by green shelves that glitter, thus the name: Jewel. It seems like a unique idea, but was it a good choice? Time will tell!

Almere the Jewel

De Citadel

Address Citadel 0

Architect Atelier Christian De Portzamparc (Paris) 2006

The star of Almere’s central area is the massive De Citadel building. World-famous architect De Portzamparc created a contemporary fortress. Thus, new cities would have a historic reference. He achieved that by wrapping the whole area in a concrete layer with a patterned frieze that gives it a fortress-like feel.

The complex consists of four different buildings with pedestrian streets and a square between them. Commercial spaces occupy the ground floor of all four buildings. Three buildings are also residential, while the fourth one has a big gym.

De Citadel

Lakeside

Address Forum 59

Architect Se ARCH (Amsterdam) 2007

On your way from the center, you might miss the Lakeside building due to a large pergola blocking the view. Pay close attention, and you will see its quirky and twisted shape. A rectangular tower stands above a trapezium-shaped base, with slopes on all four sides. That particular shape gives a sense of movement to the building.

All four façades have deep terraces, thus serving as the tampon zone for sun and wind. The grey panels that serve as the fence have a repetitive pattern of crocheted curtains. While the base hosts a catering facility, the tower is residential.

Almere Lakeside

Kunstlinie Almere Flevoland

Address Esplanade 10

Architect SANAA (Tokyo) 2006

As soon as you pass the Lakeside building, you’ll arrive at Almere’s prettiest square, Esplanade. The slick Kunstlinie Almere Flevoland dominates this large pedestrian plaza by the lake. The building blends perfectly into the landscape. Due to its reduced volumes, modest colors, and simple straight lines, it almost feels like it’s floating above the lake.

The Japanese architects played with rectangles. The building’s layout is rectangular. Rectangular holes serve as patios. Three rectangles stand above the main one. These are an art and cultural center and two theaters. The sober interior’s highlight is a giant mural, work of Brussels-based Taiwanese artist Michael Lin.

Kunstlinie Almere Flevoland

Leonardo Hotel, Merkur Casino and Pit Museum

Address Koetsierbaan 2 and 10 and Schipperplein 4

Architect Alsop Architects (London) 2004

This big entertainment complex has four buildings. The Leonardo Hotel, Merkur Casino, and a shopping center are on the Esplanade. The Pit Museum is across Koetsierbaan Street, on Schippersplein. All of the buildings, except the shopping center, have unusual shapes.

The Leonardo Hotel (former Apollo Hotel) is a wooden rectangle on inclined stilts. On the ground, a potato-shaped building. The strange shape of the Merkur Casino is covered in zinc. Originally it was meant to be an auditorium. The Pit Museum is a rectangle with a round edge triangular pergola perched on it.

Leonardo Hotel and Merkur Casino

The Wave

Address Koetsierbaan 417

Architect René van Zuuk Architekten B.V. (Almere) 2004

The last building on our list has the most dramatic appearance. The Wave is a six-story residential building in front of the lake. A moving façade distorts its relatively simple base, similar to a rectangle. The building has 42 apartments.

Silver-colored aluminum panels cover the entire building. Though parallel to each other, these are slightly inclined towards the façade. The main façade in front of the lake has a wave-like shape, thus the name. This is the only building on our list designed by local architects.

Almere the Wave

Practical Info

How to Visit Almere

You can visit Almere as a day trip from Amsterdam. Frequent trains connect the two cities in less than half an hour. Some trains start from Amsterdam Centraal, while others come from the south (The Hague, Rotterdam, etc) and pass through Amsterdam Zuid and Amsterdam RAI. In Almere, there are six train stations. The main one is Almere Centrum.

The best way to explore Almere is on foot or by bicycle. The city center is small and compact, so you see all the sites on foot. To get to the residential neighborhoods, you need to rent a bicycle. The local tourist office offers modern and safe bikes. You can also join any of the fun Almere Tours they offer. We did and loved it!

Biking in Almere

Where to Stay in Almere

If you prefer to take things slow, you can spend a night or two in this modern city. One building on our list is a hotel. You guessed it: we are talking about the Leonardo Hotel by the lake. Apart from great architecture, they also offer comfortable rooms and incredible views.

The fantastic Best Western Plus Plaza Almere is another superb building. Nice modern rooms and first-class service make it the best-rated hotel in the city. It is ideally located right by the train station. If you are driving and want to stay close to the motorway, the Ibis Styles Almere is a good option.

Unique Almere Housing

2 Responses

  1. Olga
    | Reply

    We live in Almere. Despite what is written here, a tourist would not be interested in visiting this city. Frankly, I would call it a waste of time and money, but to live here is a blessing, it is comfortable, it is like living in the nature reserve. For tourists I would advise to go to the most beautiful dutch cities, like Utrecht and Leiden.

    • happyfrogtravels
      | Reply

      Hi Olga,
      Thank you for your honest comment.
      I agree with you that most visitors would prefer Utrecht or Leiden over Almere. However, I am an architect and I can assure you Almere is super attractive to other architects and modern architecture lovers in general.
      Good to know it’s a comfortable place to live.
      Kind regards,
      Milos

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