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type of New Town:
> scale of autonomy
Almere was planned as a solution for housing shortages in Amsterdam. The city was built on reclaimed land, in the Flevoland polder, 30 kilometres to the northeast of Amsterdam during the early seventies. Its ambitious planners envisioned a suburban living environment for commuters to the nearby capital, Schiphol and Het Gooi. Early plans for Almere were drawn up by the government agency Rijksdienst voor de IJsselmeerpolders (IJsselmeerpolders Development Agency or RIJP), a sub-department of the Ministry of Transport and Water Management. The directors of the RIJP created a separate unit which was charged with the task to come up with a so-called Structure Plan for Almere. This unit, called Projektburo Almere, consisted of a team of young architects, urban planners, landscape architects, sociologists and traffic planners. In January 1977, the Projektburo produced a first version of the Structure Plan.
Almere was originally designed as a number of semi-separate nuclei, each with its own neighbourhoods, facilities and identity, connected through a shared infrastructure and common city centre. Today, Almere comprises of three separate urban nuclei: Haven, Stad and Buiten.
Almere Haven is the oldest part of Almere; the first inhabitants came in 1976. It features the most idealistic episode in Almere, when the goal was to build a model city on the newly reclaimed land of Flevoland. This nucleus was planned before the economic crises of the 1970s compromised the original vision. All housing developments are built to provide views of greenery and open spaces, and each group of houses is clustered around a little park, usually with easy access to the surrounding forests.
Almere Haven does not have the inconveniences of busy traffic, because all roads are cul-de-sacs connecting to a well-hidden ring road that provides the only car access in and out of Almere Haven. The dedicated bus lane also forms a ring and most residents are no more than a few minutes walk from a bus stop.
Almere Stad is the central nucleus of Almere, where the first houses were finished in 1980. Almere Stad borders on a large urban lake, the Weerwater. The city hall, a shopping arcade as well as a regional hospital are located in the centre. Large parts of the centre remained reserved for an extensive urban centre when the need would arise. This moment came in 1996. A plan for the reconstruction of the centre was drawn up by OMA, lead by the famous Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. It hosts a waterfront, a cinema, a theatre, several stores of well known retail brands, restaurants, apartments and a new library.
Currently, two new nuclei are under construction: Almere Hout and Almere Poort. Several others are in the planning stages, including Almere Pampus. By 2030 the population of Almere should have increased up to 300,000.
Most inhabitants value the suburban quality of life in Almere. Many of them are commuters who work in the business districts of Amsterdam and Schiphol Airport. The lack of employment is one of the stubborn issues the city is addressing.
Almere has made a name for itself by giving ample space for experiment in architecture and urban planning of which recently the Homeruskwartier, Oosterwold and the Floriade are examples.
As the city continues to expand it is increasingly encountering issues that all cities face after a few decades: how to keep up the quality of the older neighbourhoods and how to redevelop them to prevent decay.