Laboratory NDSM

Amsterdam’s NDSM shipyard is both an undeniably inspiring district of Amsterdam and the face of gentrifying city. BETA is attracted to this paradox.

A brief history


Until its bankruptcy in 1983, The Netherlands Dock and Shipbuilding Company (NDSM) was the largest shipyard in Northern Europe. The 250 acre site, littered with warehouses, slipways and cranes, has a heart comprising of an impressive ensemble of buildings dating back to the 1920s. An early manifestation of functional urban design, this ensemble was deemed a national heritage site in 2007.

Since 1983, the NDSM has since undergone a steady transformation, initially fuelled by a cultural incubator which today offers a home to nearly 150 artists and enterprises. Investors and commercial activity followed in their wake, resulting in a classic case of gentrification.

BETA office for architecture and the city Amsterdam laboratory NDSM overview

BETA NDSM temporary shipping container city exterior

Temporary shipping container city


For Theaterfestival ‘Over het IJ’, the age-old literal building block of the Festival – the shipping container – was used to create a temporary city lasting for only two weeks. The three-dimensional checkerboard pattern offers a great spatial diversity, while simultaneously communicating the Festival’s ambition to the city. As such, the hospitality area is airy and compelling, while the artists use the labyrinthine aspects of the more intimate area of the container city.

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Europan 9


In 2008 we won first prize in the EUROPAN 9 competition for a typical pre-2008 high density master plan in the Buiksloterham, the area directly adjacent to the NDSM. Inspired by the site’s industrial memory, we realized the required density in six housing blocks in a gradually opening informal composition reminiscent of the nearby shipyard. The jury commended our design for its special sensitivity towards the site and its combination of formal and informal elements.

Following the competition we were commissioned to do an in-depth follow-up investigation, the results of which we presented at an ARCAM (Amsterdam’s Center for Architecture) debate on September 18th 2008, precisely one day after the Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy. Back then we had no idea what the implications were of those developments across the Atlantic.

BETA NDSM Europan Ymere competition first prize model photo

NDSM Island


In 2011, avid skateboarders and artist duo Miktor&Molf realized an archetypical skate-pool at the NDSM. This homage to the early days of skateboarding was completely financed through crowdfunding. Despite its success, the structure is up for demolition. To prevent this from happening – and furthermore to add a new layer of use to the pool – the artists collaborated with BETA.

We proposed a utopian ‘deserted island’ in the concrete expanses of the NDSM shipyard. The existing skate-pool would be enclosed in a micro-landscape, making the installation all-sided and offering a degree of intimacy unbeknown to the shipyard. Despite having a near child-like appeal to the imagination, it proved difficult to attract a new wave of (crowd-) funding for this public amenity.



To foster interdisciplinary collaboration, the ‘screensaver’ installation demonstrated the work of all the artists and artisans active at the NDSM. A total of 350 disused cathode-ray-tube computer monitors were hooked up together to display a looped AV production containing snippets of each artist’s work.

image by Tim Stet

image by Tim Stet

BETA NDSM redevelopment strategy isometric

NDSM development strategy


In 2011 we were commissioned to devise the spatial preconditions for a re-invigoration of the cultural incubator at the NDSM. The proposition entails opening up the Western façade in order to strengthen the role of the public interior. Behind this, several loft-like buildings offer a higher-end space, adding to the incubator’s spectrum of entrepreneurial space and allowing businesses to evolve without having to leave the shipyard.

Driving range


The scale of NDSM’s industrial landscape offers opportunities for reinterpretation. We decided to redefine a former slipway as a driving range, fairly reminiscent of those we see in Tokyo. Prevailing Southwesterly winds would blow the golfballs back to the fairly utilitarian driving range tower, which offers stunning views over the IJ river.

BETA NDSM driving range

image by Marie Andrée Pellerin image by Marie Andrée Pellerin

NDSM showcase


Collaborating with several artisans, we devised a mobile device to exhibit the shipyard’s rich cultural production. A robust showcase was built around several heavy duty industrial glass panes. The showcase is easily transportable and this mobile aspect has frequently been used to exhibit the work of the NDSM in both city and on the shipyard itself.

Urban beach


The urban beach reconnects the city dweller with Amsterdam’s abundance of water. A long lost connection that we wanted to reinvigorate. The design comprises mainly of an inclined surface which does no more than provide access to the IJ River along Amsterdam’s countless kilometers of quaysides. Besides making a significant addition to the amenities of Amsterdam, we thought the image of people swimming in the IJ River would be a great way of demonstrating the excellent water quality the city has to offer.

Visit Dezeen’s blog on the project for more information and images.

BETA NDSM urban beach


The Bunker


Beneath the NDSM’s Y slipway, laid the “Bunker”, a squatted, clandestine and illustrious venue for events ranging from Techno to rubber parties. In an effort to perpetuate this activity we made an attempt to legalize it through a formal permit procedure. As the owner had other ideas for the slipway, there was no cooperation and the permit was regretfully denied. Subsequently this characteristic group of NDSM inhabitants had to make way.

Kunststad third layer


Answering to increasing demand for affordable space at the NDSM, we used the existing infrastructure of the Kunststad (ArtCity) to devise an economically efficient expansion. With their sober materialization and efficient structure, the perforated and barrel vaulted structures offer ample spatial quality for the new artist studios.

BETA laboratory NDSM Kunststad third layer impressions

Project Details


Europan Nederland, Ymere, Stichting NDSM Werf-Oost, Stichting IJ Producties, Helling3, Stiching Kinetisch Noord, Stichting Backup


Hanneke van Etten, Karel de Boer, Stijn Bertens, Miktor & Molf


Auguste van Oppen, Marc van Asseldonk, Evert Klinkenberg