De Ceuvel

Post-Industrial Land and Discarded Houseboats Transformed into a Creative Eco-Hub

Amsterdam, The Netherlands – June 3rd 2013 – A group of companies and citizens is beginning construction on de Ceuvel, one of the most unique and sustainable urban developments in Europe. The site, which is now heavily polluted, will feature imaginatively retrofitted houseboats placed around a winding wooden walkway and surrounded by an undulating landscape of soil-cleaning plants. Each of the upgraded boats will house offices, ateliers, or workshops for creative and social enterprises, and the plan also includes a public teahouse and bed & breakfast.

The houseboats, which would otherwise be thrown away, will be upgraded to the highest possible level of architectural quality and eco-efficiency. Using a Do-It-Yourself approach and scavenged waste materials, the boats will be fitted with fully renewable energy and water supplies, green roofs, and original cladding. With a cost of only 5.000 euros for materials, the return on investment for the installed clean technologies will be less than three years.

De Ceuvel will be built on a water-bound plot of land that was secured for a 10-year lease in 2012 through a tender held by the Amsterdam municipality. Architects space&matter and Marjolein Smeele brought together a group that put forth the winning concept for reimagining the site of the former de Ceuvel Volharding shipyard. This group also included DELVA Landscape Architects, who will design the soil-cleaning park in collaboration with the University of Ghent. Metabolic, a sustainable development agency, completed the full sustainability plan and feasibility study for the site, with financial support from Innovation Network. Overall financing for the site development is largely provided by Bureau Broedplaatsen.

Space&matter and Metabolic are now leading the design and technical outfitting of the first boat retrofit, together with construction foreman and boat expert Huib Koel. The boat retrofitting process, for which the group is relying on and therefore seeking volunteer assistance, will be publicly visible at NDSM wharf in Amsterdam North from May to September of 2013. The boats will be placed on the de Ceuvel site in September 2013.

Unique architecture and urban plan
“The urban plan for de Ceuvel is simple, but has a certain poetry to it,” said Sascha Glasl of project-initiating architecture firm, space&matter. Because of the temporary,10-year nature of the development and the low budget, space&matter focused on developing an innovative concept where mobility and reuse are central. The design of the urban plan and community-driven nature of the project rapidly combine ‘waste’ land and ‘waste’ materials into something beautiful and valuable.

“This green oasis creates a new on-land harbor for these boats, which otherwise would have ended up in a junkyard,” said Glasl. As largely autarkic elements, the boats will be able to leave the site after ten years without much of a trace, leaving the land more valuable, biodiverse, and cleaner from pollutants.

“Featherlight” footprint and clean technology
“The network of clean technologies we have selected for de Ceuvel effectively mimic the functions of a natural ecosystem, harvesting solar energy and locally reusing all organic materials,” said Eva Gladek, CEO of Metabolic. The creative reuse of waste materials, such as spent mushroom substrate used as insulation, is a key strategy for adapting this ambitious plan to the available budget. In addition to largely self-sufficient boats, the site will feature a decentralized wastewater treatment and resource recovery unit (D-SARR) that will process wastes, produce biogas, and harvest nutrients for on-site use in urban farming. A site-wide IT system will show live feeds of all resources used and produced on site to give users feedback about their behavior and showcase the performance of the technologies for visitors to the area.

“We have envisioned the de Ceuvel site as a ‘Cleantech Playground’ for the exploration and testing of new technologies as they become available,” said Gladek. In collaboration with partners such as Waternet – Amsterdam’s watercycle organization – research and development will take place to learn how cities can transform from resource-drains to sustainable cities with a healthy metabolism.

Regenerative development
The phytoremediation plan designed by DELVA Landscape Architects with consultation from the University of Ghent adds a regenerative element to the plan. The heavily polluted soil will be purified by the specially selected combination of plants, resulting in a cleaner and more biodiverse area than at the start of the project. Floating platforms around the land will feature water-cleaning gardens and micro-greenhouses for food production.


Project Type


Amsterdam, Netherlands

Related links


  • space&matter
  • Smeelearchitecture