05 Apr Amsterdam Science Park: from pasture field to science hub

Amsterdam Science Park: from pasture field to science hub

Isn’t it nice to wander around the Science Park? Especially in typical Dutch storms and monsoon-like rain showers! (well, for me at least)  But do you have any idea how different this area started out?  Let me tell you the story of the transformation of the Amsterdam Science Park.

Stage 1:  Cows and rich people

  • In 1629, a tract of land east of Amsterdam was reclaimed from the sea and named  the Watergraafsmeerpolder – let’s call it WP to save on ink. (this is not something unique, stealing land from the sea is amongst the favourite activities of the Dutch) Most polders end up as boring green pasture fields that attract old people on electric bikes, but because of  its location close to the city of Amsterdam,  the WP developed differently:  many wealthy people from Amsterdam  used it to build country houses . (the only remaining example is Frankendaele)
  • After the French revolution, the Amsterdam aristocrats lost their wealth and many country houses were demolished, making the WP an ordinary Dutch polder (fortunately without electric bikes).
  • In the 19th century, urbanisation rates exploded and Amsterdam expanded like a cobweb in all possible directions. The WP became a part of urban Amsterdam, but one small patch of grassland remained unaffected for another century: the future Science Park area.

Stage 2: Cows and science

  • In 1963, the UvA bought the grassland on the edge of the WP to build our awesome faculty. The headline in the Dutch newspaper Trouw read: “Cows have to make place for science – Watergraafsmeer loses last grass land.” . At the time, the area was still inhabited by  the farmer family Oostenrijk-Verschuur and their cows. Their former farm still stands close to the faculty, and in the near future it will become the accommodation of café-restaurant Polder
  • The first science institute to move to the WP was NIKHEF.  As co-inventors of the world wide web, this Nikhef page shows one of the first webpages ever!

Secondly, the biologists moved  in. They developed a good relationship with the Oostenrijk-Verschuur family: the farmers offered cows to the students for cow-friendly experiments and a garden area to grow marihuana , for scientific experiments of course! 😉

Stage 3: The Amsterdam Science Park as we know it

  • After Mrs. Oostenrijk-Verschuur died, buildings sprouted out of the Science Park soil like weeds. Several science institutes and business companies were built, as well as our faculty building (by 4 different architects to prevent it from becoming a clear, homogenous construction, but more on that another time).
  • And so the lonely biologists and complex-stuff-physicists were joined by their science friends  and in September 2010  our faculty opened  its doors officially

Currently a herd of 4000 students and 1500 employees uses our part of the former pasture field to graze for scientific knowledge. And new neighbours are still joining us all the time, such as recently SRON, the Dutch institute for space research. Did you know that we were all preceded by cows and rich people? Or do you know any other historic details of Science Park? Go ahead and share them in the comments!


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WTF Johnny

WTF Johnny

- Curious - Absent-minded - Pretending to be a musician - Small ecological footprint - Ryszard Kapuscinsky-style journalist - Living in the Science Park library - Traveller
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