Zaanse Schans is an area containing a reconstruction of Dutch houses from pre-industrial times. It originated in the early fifties and, unlike a real open air museum, people live and work here. This area, by now fifty years old and almost of monument-worthy status itself, has been subject to changes and additions since the sixties. Not surprising, as Zaanse Schans is an active part of the city which by definition can never be static.
In 2009, Foundation (Stichting) Zaanse Schans published the Vision Zaanse Schans 2015. The objectives can be summarised as increasing the attractiveness for tourists and their length of stay, reinforcing Zaanse Schans as a junction for regional tourism, and sustainable preservation of the cultural heritage. To that end, the municipality of Zaanstad commissioned our bureau to draw up architectural guidelines as well as an urban vision. After completion of these assignments, Foundation Zaanse Schans commissioned SteenhuisMeurs, together with DaF Architects and Joost Emmerik MSc, to design two of the most important public spaces of Zaanse Schans: both entrance areas.
Out of five guidelines for development suggested by us, all of them aimed at improvement, correction and reinforcement of the concept of Zaanse Schans, it was decided in consultation with stakeholders and the municipality to translate three of these guidelines into an urban vision. Concretely, this involves the partial tidying up of Zaanse Schans, and particularly the rounding off of the concept in which the ideals of Jaap Schipper (1915-2010), ‘the’ architect of Zaanse Schans, form the point of departure. The time frame for Zaanse Schans is 1850. In the urban vision, the opportunities to give shape to the Vision Zaanse Schans 2015 are outlined. Through research into the settlements in the Zaanstreek area around 1850, the structural elements for the vision became clear, resulting in ‘design by research’, involving Daf Architects from Rotterdam in design workshops and studies in respect of parking and the entrance areas. During the process, the municipality of Zaanstad played an active part, and discussions took place with a sounding board group composed of parties and organisations involved. All this input was of vital importance to the development and refinement of the urban vision.