Thursday, June 16, 2022

Growth Dutch new town Almere seen from the clouds

This book is about the new town Almere in The Netherlands. This city does not count its age in centuries, but in less than 50 years. The first eight families got keys to their cabin chalets in 1975 and the 400 first occupants received their keys to the constructed houses in 1976. It is a city that arose from the water, when in 1964 the construction of dykes began and in 1968 the polder Zuidelijk Flevoland was reclaimed. Almere is the newest city in the Netherlands since 1975 and became a municipality in 1984 and is now the eighth largest municipality in the Netherlands with 230,000 inhabitants.

Unique book 

The book Almere vanuit de wolken (Almere from the clouds) is a large and weighty book. The book contains more than 200 aerial photos in landscape A4 format and weighs almost 2 kilos. It is also a unique book, because the 200+ aerial photographs show the development of the new town Almere from 1964 to 2021. Publishing house Watermerk has made similar books of The Hague, Rotterdam and Dordrecht, but Almere can show its entire history in aerial photos.The book was created as a sequel to the exhibition Almere from Above, organised by the City Archive of Almere from August 2020 to September 2021, with aerial photographs of the development of the city, on display at the City Archive and at three other locations in the city. 

The exhibition showed a limited selection of aerial photos from the collection of the City Archive, from old black-and-white photos from the 1960s to recent colour shots. From these, a selection was made for Almere Boven, which together tell the story of the multi-kernel city and its enormous growth over the past 50 years.

The exhibition showed a limited selection of the 25,000 aerial photographs in the collection of the City Archive Almere. But the reactions to the exhibitions asked for more. That was the reason for Michel Langendijk, together with Bart Hofmeester of Aero Camera and Roel Dijkstra, to research material for a book. Michel Langendijk had been involved in the composition of Almere Boven and Bart Hofmeester (1921-2021), who had made aerial photographs of Almere since 1964. Roel Dijkstra manages the collection of Aero Camera since the death of Bart Hofmeester and he made the actual photos of 2020 and 2021. The book contains a foreword by one of the pioneer urban planner Brans Stassen. There is also a short introduction.

The photos do not form just a series of sequential historical photographs, but show the historical photograph with a current photograph, taken from the same point of view. For example, the eight mobile homes surrounded by a wasteland in Almere Haven are shown with photograph of the present buildings. This editorial formula is maintained throughout almost the entire book.


The book is a nice book for an Almere resident to leave on a coffee table when welcoming visitors, or to give as a present. But the book deserves a wider distribution.

For the early inhabitants of Almere, the book is not only interesting to leaf through and to search for their house (and/or former houses). I had the pleasure of looking for photographs of the Bivak in Almere Harbour with the very first Almere resident, a mobile home owner and police officer Wim Leeman.

(Insert) Mr Wim Leeman indicates where the eight mobile homes of the Bivak were situated; (left) the Bivak, (right) mobile offices.  

But the book can also be used by professionals in urban design and planning such as urban developers, urban planners and architects. For them the book presents the creation and rapid growth of a new town within half a century. The photographs show the development of the city kernels, the green spaces in the neighbourhoods and between the kernels, the infrastructure, the separation of residential areas and industrial estates, the bus lanes and the network of cycle paths. 

Almere from the clouds, compiled by Michel Langendijk, publisher Watermerk BV, Dutch language, EAN 9789078388302, 264 pages, 1853 grams, 39.95 euros


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