In 1933 the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) took place on the S.S. Patris bound for Athens from Marseilles. While soaking up the Mediterranean sun, the architects drafted the ‘Athens Charter’, which contained their vision for the city of the future. Thirty years later, the city planners of Amsterdam took on their ideas to create the Bijlmermeer.
Locally known as the ‘Bijlmer’, the complex is about a half-hour bike ride from the city center, and is truly a realisation of the Amsterdam in concrete. The architects deliberated over every aspect of modern ways of living. However, the white middle class, the intended audience, did not want to leave the crowded and unstructured heart of Amsterdam. As a result, many of the 31 concrete towers remained empty until new arrivals, especially from Suriname, moved in.
In this two-episode ‘City of the Future’ special, 99% invisible host Roman Mars tells the story of the Bijlmer: he talks of the dream, the many setbacks during construction, the multiculturalism, the catastrophe that struck in the form of an airplane crashing into one of the towers, the subsequent reconstruction, and the future. The Bijlmer is clearly not what its planners envisioned. In fact it’s still evolving.
See here the trailer of the film “Architects’ Congress“ by László Moholy-Nagy about the CIAM 1933 sailing from Athens to Marseille.