Deep Dive: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Welcome to our Deep Dive Blog Series. Throughout this series, we will look at different locations around the globe to analyze some of the aspects that make them ideal candidates for the installation of our seasteading communities. These seasteads will be designed to withstand different forces and pressures from natural and man-made environments. Each location has been identified by Arktide as a place that would be strategic and fundamental in connecting our seasteading communities to existing global networks.

With that being said, let us introduce you to Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Amsterdam is the capital and the principal commercial and financial center of the Netherlands. It is situated in a flat and low-lying area with the Amstel River flowing from south to north through the city toward the IJ River. Parts of the city lie below sea level, some of them on land that has been reclaimed from the sea or marshes and lakes. Amsterdam and its surroundings are crisscrossed by over 150 canals, creating nearly 90 tiny islands connected by a network of over a thousand bridges. With such low altitudes, it is important to consider the possible effects of sea levels rising. Seasteading would not be the only solution but could offer a way to mitigate the effects of parts of the city potentially being submerged by water.

Amsterdam is a small city compared to most national capitals. After World War II the population stood at more than 800,000. It then began to decline until the mid-1980s but has generally risen since then. Recent increases are due to a steady surplus of births over deaths and an influx of immigrants. This city has been a home to immigrants since the 16th century. More recently, many have come from the former Dutch empire (Indonesia, Suriname, and the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles). Others have come as “guest workers” or as employees of multinational corporations and students from developed countries. Non-European minorities now comprise well over one-third of Amsterdam’s population. In 2009, the city had 176 different nationalities, making it the most diverse city in the world. This diversity, as well as the openness to foreigners, makes this an attractive place for the potential development of seasteading communities.

Amsterdam originated as a small fishing village in the 13th century AD. To protect themselves from floods, the early inhabitants had to build dikes on both sides of the Amstel River. The town grew very rapidly in the Middle Ages to the point of becoming one of the world’s main ports during the Dutch gold century. The international trade on which Amsterdam had thrived suffered greatly during the Napoleonic period, and it was only the revival of Dutch rule and commerce in the East Indies in the 1830s that began to restore prosperity to the city. After 1850 sustained growth set in, and the population doubled by 1900. The North Sea Canal, built during the 1870s, strengthened the port by providing a direct link to the North Sea. A major physical change came again to the cityscape in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the booming colonial trade fueled industrialization and the expansion of the city’s population.

Like most modern cities, Amsterdam is a service center, with only about one-tenth of its workforce employed in manufacturing. The most vibrant and expanding part of the dominant service sector is its business services component, including consulting, information and medical technology, and telecommunications. The consistent lifeblood of the city for the past seven centuries has been international trade and transport, which together account for about one-fifth of employment. Banking and insurance, health, cultural, and social services have also been a mainstay of the Amsterdam economy. Another important part of the city’s economy is tourism. Amsterdam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Tourism of all kinds is growing and has become a major economic activity, employing some 51,300 people (9% of the total). The city of Amsterdam has developed a set of partnerships and cooperation programs with several cities and countries worldwide. The primary objective of these partnerships is to strengthen the cultural and economic positioning of the city through the transfer of skills and expertise. With such a popular tourist destination, seasteading communities would be one more of the many attractions this city has to offer. Seasteads could help accommodate the tourists that flow into Amsterdam every year. With an infrastructure already based heavily around rivers and canals, it would be easy to integrate these communities into the urban fabric of the city.

Amsterdam is also a very popular location for international business, mainly because of its combination of accessibility, cultural richness, cosmopolitan character, and a human scale that results from the absence of high-rise buildings and multilane highways. The city’s busy port and excellent land and air transportation links have allowed it to maintain its importance as a center for regional and international trade. Amsterdam commands excellent transport connections via rail, water, road, and air. Schiphol Airport is among the busiest in Europe and one of the world’s major hub airports. Amsterdam’s seaport also ranks among the most important in Europe. The port of Amsterdam is the second largest in the Netherlands, behind the port of Rotterdam. Based on figures from 2010, it ranks 4th in Europe based on tonnage of goods. The port is located on the Canal de la Mer du Nord and the banks of the IJ. It is connected to the North Sea via the North Sea Canal. One of the advantages of the port’s location is that the port area is not subject to the tides, being only accessible via the locks of IJmuiden which are located east of the port of IJmuiden. A port that is not affected by tides also offers a great opportunity for the use of seasteads. These could be incorporated into the infrastructure of the port to serve potentially as administrative facilities. These would offer great benefits since they can be shifted and moved around to accommodate the needs of the port.

Amsterdam is regularly cited as one of the world’s leading economic centers and as one of the most dynamic and pleasant cities to live in. The main qualities of the city are the diversity of languages spoken, as well as access to markets and the quality of transport infrastructure, both national and international. The city of Amsterdam has one of the largest cultural and architectural heritage in Europe. As most of the city, including the canals, is below sea level, the old and modern buildings are built on stilts that rest on layers of sand that are more or less deep. The canal system in Amsterdam is the result of a thoughtful urban planning policy. In the early seventeenth century, at the peak of immigration, a complete plan was drawn up based on four concentric half-circles of canals whose ends emerged in the bay of the IJ. The work is part of an ambitious development program involving the drying of marshy land.

The city’s public transport network is very developed, combining several modes of transport, including railway (tram and metro), road (bus), and maritime and river (ferries). In the center, trams and buses concentrate most of the passenger traffic, while subways serve the peripheral areas and the towns to the south. Free ferry links allow you to cross the IJ and connect Noord and the surrounding towns to the rest of the city. Within the city, since the 1960s, planners have favored public transportation to reduce automobile use. A high-speed metro line opened in 1976, and a new fast rail link to Schiphol Airport entered service in 1988, but trams remain the principal means of transportation in inner Amsterdam. Although the city has a modern metro system, about one-fifth of the workforce still relies on bicycles for transportation. Various rankings place Amsterdam among the world’s most comfortable cities and as the European capital of innovation. With a city so open to innovative infrastructure, seasteading could be the next possible step.

Amsterdam has an oceanic climate strongly influenced by the proximity of the North Sea to the west and with prevailing westerly winds. The warmest months are from June to August, with temperatures between 20°-27° Celsius (60°-80° Fahrenheit). There are rarely extreme temperatures in Amsterdam. The air is relatively humid, and fog is common in autumn and spring. The weather in Amsterdam is mild during wintertime. However, temperatures can drop below freezing. The chance of extreme cold is rare. Rains in Amsterdam are frequent with an average of 187 days of rain per year, with most rainy events being drizzle or brief showers. The average annual rainfall is 915 millimeters (36 inches). The bad weather is mostly frequent in the cold period, from October to March. The favorable climate here is just another reason why seasteading could be made possible.

Amsterdam shows to be a city with great potential for seasteads and seasteading communities. It is a place that is open to innovation, diversity, and foreigners with skills. This city also includes important infrastructure centered around water, including a busy port and efficient water transportation. With its economy also being highly diverse, it would be easy for anyone to integrate into this city and find a way to contribute.





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