an urban arrival lobby for migrants empowers amsterdam as a city of integration

an urban arrival lobby for migrants empowers amsterdam as a city of integration

recent global migration waves have fueled intense debates in amsterdam, the netherlands and beyond. migration is of all ages however, and comes in many varieties — nomadic, circulatory, refugee, settler, temporary, and many more. instead of perceiving it as a problem, design firm FABRICations suggests that being open to various types of migration could also be highly beneficial to both newly arrived migrants as well as amsterdam itself. current policies for integration of asylum seekers in the netherlands mean long waiting times, sometimes up to two years, during which applicants are denied to work and have no access to social urban dynamics. bureaucratic procedures result therefore in many lost opportunities while amsterdam is growing and in need for diverse talents and backgrounds.

existing program suitable for interaction – aerial view of wittenburg



in response to these debates, FABRICations + bureau LADA, in collaboration with rené boer from failed architecture, aim to create a special social zone in amsterdam where, through experimental policies and speculative design, a space of arrival for these migrants could be carved out, spurring interaction between the newcomers and the current inhabitants. but how to define an ‘open city’? what resources can make newcomers a dynamic urban class? and how can design help absorbing incoming flows without developing into an economic toy for exploitation? as part of the international social housing festival 2017, this research has taken the wittenburg area in amsterdam as a case study examining the possibilities of the densification of this residential area by merging new social housing and working typologies with existing public buildings, actors and agents.

agents of change – aerial view of wittenburg



the outcome is a social zone where refugees have special legal permissions to operate and actively participate in the urban socio-economic environment. within the zone, the new socio-spatial elements would be densifying the existing tissue, connecting and enriching existing programs with 50% new working and living units. spatial frames, designed for progress and able to be filled in by their users, stimulate interaction and new forms of co-living. this basic structure forms the base for further infill throughout time. all frames present basic features and the same material, carrying the ability to be actively engaged.

urban vision – street view of the wittenburg in 2021



equipped with the right political and architectural infrastructure, wittenburg could become a unique welcoming ‘red carpet’ for amsterdam’s new arrivals. not a closed area of exclusion but an openly accessible area for experimentation where self-building and new social policies result in new forms of collective, affordable housing and shared working environments. empowering asylum seekers to make their waiting time more useful for themselves and for the city, allowing undocumented refugees to access housing and work opportunities, allowing companies, universities and institutions to provide opportunities for newcomers beyond existing restrictions, stimulating each arrival to let their talents blossom, for their own and the city’s benefit.

urban vision – street view of the wittenburg in 2021

building pier – product facility for self construction materials recollection and distribution

cloister garden – multifaith prayer room

learning chambre – integration with the a.turning school

asylum request journey in the netherlands horizontal

plan des chambres – site plan



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: apostolos costarangos | designboom








  • Won’t work. You see, to build character and be self sufficient, you need to be thrust into a situation where you are forced to work and earn from day one – unless given an ultimatum. All those idealistic ‘projects’ around Paris and London are a disaster – beyond the day to day crime and general atmosphere of dull no hopeness, there are issues like the Grenfell tragedy, where the cost of all this back’fires’. I don’t recall any of this for the Jews and Irish immigrants who came over to New York and built the city, the city did not build them.

    What also occurs is that criminals (often on the run from their home countries) will exploit any generosity – like the terrorists in the UK and Europe and take ‘control’ of these projects. Don’t believe me? Visit them!

    What looks great on a drawing board does not equate to reality.

    I welcome counter arguments.

    ttGuy says:
  • Failed Architecture indeed 🙂

    I like the pink but come on people…what about utilising some of the many empty office buildings in A’dam first before we start pouring concrete like a kind of selfproclaimed Robert Moses of Migrant Affairs, subsequently killing the little qualities that neighbourhood has for generations to come. Jane Jacobs would turn over in her grave. I foresee new ‘Nieuwmarktrellen’ would this ever leave the drawing table.

    H-J says:
  • From FABRICations: Both comments raise very reasonable objections, but they misunderstand the main purpose of this project. As designers, we didn’t want to provide ready-made solutions on such a complex matter, but we rather preferred generate discussion over new ways to solve the issues of migrants and integration. The purpose of “Amsterdam Arrivals” is to suggest topics of further discussion and investigation. This is represented also by the drawing style, which is very abstract and idealistic. Anyways, we are glad to see that through designboom we managed to reach our goal and engage you in speculating over our proposal. We would very much appreciate if you would share more feedbacks and suggestions to improve the project.

    FABRICations says:
  • Hi,
    I am a journalist based in NYC and very interested in following the developments of this proposal, especially as it makes its way into a more concrete plan. Is there any way to contact those involved in creating the proposal or staying in touch with its latest developments?

    Kari L. says:

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