Reviving an urban fringe

On the raw and experimental Havenstraatterrein in Oud-Zuid in Amsterdam, RED Company and Caransa Groep will develop VrijHaven: a unique district with affordable housing, space for makers, and community facilities. The design is characterized by a high degree of sustainability, with reused and bio-based materials that reimagine the area’s illustrious history.

Amsterdam, NL
43.000 m² GFA
2023 - 2028

Havenstraat becomes VrijHaven

In VrijHaven, we celebrate the site's raw and unconstrained nature

The Havenstraatterrein has a special history. With the disappearance of the railway, the area has long been a fringe area of the city. Elements of the former station and railway yard are still visible, even today. It is a unique place within Amsterdam, with room to experiment, no strictly imposed frameworks, a relaxed and creative atmosphere, and a close-knit community. With VrijHaven, we celebrate the site’s raw and unconstrained nature.

An excellent team of architects, comprising of Studio Donna van Milligen Bielke & Ard de Vries Architecten, Team V Architectuur, Joppe Kusters, Powerhouse Company, and DELVA Landscape Architecture, are responsible for the design of the oerplint and the 12 building blocks.

An ode to history

The monumental plinth with Kopgebouw and the new tram shed play an important role as carriers of the identity of the plan. Studio Donna van Milligen Bielke has designed this ‘Oerplint’ as a robust and monumental ode to the area’s rich history. The space around the building blocks is designed in such a way that it can be appropriated by residents, in true Amsterdam fashion, to strengthen the connection with the street. Of the commercial plinth program, 50% is assigned to crafters, manufacturers, and artists at a reduced rate. The historical trams will be exhibited and renovated in the tram shed. The roof of the tram shed is transformed into VrijPlaats: in addition to a fixed program, film screenings, small-scale events, and exhibitions can be organized here.

Nanne de Ru, co-founder of RED Company:

“We are in a unique position to develop housing in such a beautiful and special place in Amsterdam. The design team has created a balanced plan that does justice to the history of the area. At the same time, the plan contributes to the sustainable ambitions of the city of Amsterdam. ”
The courtyards invite residents to come together
The railway track is a reminder to the history of the Havenstraat

VrijHaven is divided into twelve small-scale residential blocks, each with its own character and entrance, located on top of and next to the Oerplint. The robust character of the Havenstraatterrein is reimagined with the use of harvested and reused facade materials. The varied mix of shell, studio, duplex apartments, and lofts has a flexible layout. The residential blocks are designed by Team V Architectuur, Joppe Kusters, and Powerhouse Company.

The courtyards, designed by DELVA Landscape Architects, are in contrast with the hustle and bustle of the street. A continuous railway track forms a legible, circular route through the neighborhood. The various ‘stops’ along the track are transformed into informal meeting spaces for residents. An art route in the public space further enhances this walking route. The gates, various outer walls, underpasses, and stairwells become a canvas for street art.

All twelve residential blocks offer freedom of expression for the individual residents. This results in diverse and expressive architecture.

Leading in sustainability

VrijHaven will be an energy-efficient, healthy, and energy-supplying district. By designing the development parametrically and in balance with spatial quality, VrijHaven becomes an ‘EnergieHaven’. In combination with ambitious energy-saving methods, VrijHaven achieves impressive BENG scores. The entire district is connected to a smart grid to reduce energy costs, CO2 emissions, and grid congestion.



VrijHaven is realized with minimal environmental impact and maximum value for the future. More than half of the materials are reused, recycled, or bio-based. Urban Mining Concrete is used for the plinth, with a wooden construction for the building blocks that land on the plinth. The blocks that land on ground level have a construction made up of reusable materials. Through various mitigating measures, such as a mobility hub on the edge of the plan, the careful integration of mini-hubs per block, and various types of shared mobility, cars are banned from the streets, and pedestrians and cyclists are given priority.

The space around the building blocks is designed in such a way that it can be appropriated by residents, in true Amsterdam fashion.


We formed an excellent team of designers, technical advisors and sustainability consultants to make VrijHaven possible.

  • Co-developer Caransa Groep
  • Architecture Donna van Milligen Bielke,
  •  Powerhouse Company, Team V
  •  Joppe Kusters
  • Realization Construction Company
  • Landscape Architecture DELVA Landscape Architecture
  • Strategy & concept Tenderboost
  • Building physics DGMR
  • Circular materials ALBA Concepts, Vlasman
  • Sustainable mobility The Future Mobility Network
  • Parametric studies OMRT
  • Structural engineering Van Rossum
  • Wood constructions CLT-s
  • Stakeholder management STIPO, de Omgevingsformule
  • Building costs advisory Metron
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