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.
Zaanstad wants to develop further in order to increase its attractiveness for tourism. Tourist attractions and provisions such as parking facilities and bed-and-breakfast accommodations require expansion or improvement. After having drawn up a vision on the future of Zaanstad, the municipality was left with the question of how the changes could be realised in such a way that the concept of Zaanse Schans would remain intact. The point is to give shape to the changes and objectives in the municipal vision document without causing harm to the consistent historical image and the authenticity (credibility) of Zaanse Schans. In this respect, the architectural guidelines will serve as a frame of reference for the urban development of the vision.
What is, in essence, the identity of Zaanse Schans? What makes Zaanse Schans credible? Plans for adjustment, change and preservation can be formulated only after a well-defined answer to this question has been defined. In order to find this answer, the origin was traced (by architectural historians) in order to be able to understand the original concept. Also, the characteristics of the landscape, urban planning, buildings and grounds, and detail and materials were mapped. It was concluded that the credibility of the Zaanse Schans area depends on the coherence of these different levels of scale.
The challenge to achieve a successful process of change and preservation lies in the protection of the qualities at all scale levels, leaving room for corrections in respect of earlier and less successful adjustments in the area. For example, there is scope to improve the appearance of a number of car parks, and the entrance to Zaanse Schans could be made more clear-cut and tidier. On the basis of an analysis of the origin and thorough spatial research, an assessment of the area has been formulated and guidelines for preservation and for development for the future of Zaanse Schans have been drawn up.