Haarlemmermeer Densification Vision

Gemeente Haarlemmermeer, NL

How do you get a city excited about densification?

Noord Holland

Gemeente Haarlemmermeer

The unique and beautiful polder landscape of Haarlemmermeer is under enormous urbanization pressure due to its proximity to Amsterdam and Schiphol Airport. (Photos: Theo Baart)

We’re in Haarlemmermeer, a municipality that is continually growing. There’s also the target, announced in 2021, of 20,000 additional new homes. However, expansion is becoming increasingly difficult due to aircraft noise restrictions, high infrastructure costs and challenges such as rising water pressure. We were asked to investigate whether densification could provide an alternative solution to the housing challenge. This had to be not only explored spatially, but also needed to be supported. Participation therefore became an integral part of the task.

Discussing improvements with the city
In order to start a conversation with the city, we did not want to talk about densification, but about the development of the city. Rather than blindly focusing on increasing the number of homes, we wanted to use these numbers to improve existing neighbourhoods. This was the start of a different way of looking at the housing challenge, because suddenly it was about what could be improved in the neighbourhood – for example, more green space, more facilities and better accessibility. Densification then becomes a driver for investment in your own neighbourhood.

Densification menu: What improvements can it bring to your neighbourhood?

We have created a menu to show how densification can contribute to improvements in your neighbourhood. These might include opportunities for exercising or walking, more local facilities, better accessibility, the chance to move house within your own neighbourhood, etc. Had a better idea? You could feel free to add it. The results of the participation were surprising and highlighted what was needed. It also helped that, in addition to the menu, we presented alternatives, such as: Do you want more compact green areas close by, or bigger green areas further away? There was a real choice.

Four components of the participation game

Showing love for the neighbourhood
We were unable to meet people due to the 2021 coronavirus measures, so we looked for an accessible digital tool. That turned out to be Swipocracy, a kind of Tinder where you can ‘swipe’ ideas you like. This was advertised to residents through local newspapers and media. There were many more responses than expected. This shows that people like to think about the future of their community, but also that there was real support for densification.

1. Which place do you want to talk about? (typical places)
2. What would you like to see improved in your neighbourhood? (the improvement menu)
3. What level of density appeals to you? (see what’s happening at eye level)
4. What do you think is more important? (alternatives)

Eight typical places in Haarlemmermeer

In my backyard
Next to this, you want to have conversations about the places that people recognize, but you can’t treat every street or neighbourhood separately. Through analysis, we discovered that the whole municipality could be divided into eight typical places. These include main streets, community centres, public transport stops, residential areas and business parks. This subdivision allowed people to think about the places they know.

Densification potential around OV

Densification potential along boulevards

Densification potential in work locations

Showing the right imagination in doing this was essential. We chose the eye-level perspective as the central image and showed in different ways how more densification led to more improvements. For example, it became clear that there was no support for densification on the historic polder strips, but there was support for it around the neighbourhood centres. The results of the participation were also shared in a final meeting. There was also room for questions and further explanations.

Densification potential in residential areas

Being able to make it happen too
As well as imagining densification, we have also considered it through design research. Is it possible to build 20,000 homes, and what effect do the additional homes and jobs have on the level of urbanization? Research shows that a higher degree of urbanization also stimulates different mobility behaviours. These are interesting linkage opportunities, and understanding them can help manage the numbers. By dividing the municipality into 100 x 100 m areas, we were able to calculate this for each typical location. This produced the ‘pixel’ density map. This map shows the eight typical locations and the range of where you can densify a little and where there are opportunities to densify more.

Densification potential in work locations

Haarlemmermeer Densification Vision

Haarlemmermeer is facing a huge challenge: 20,000 new houses have to be built by 2040. Traditionally, this has been done through new expansion sites, but this is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive due to challenges such as aircraft noise, rising water pressure and high infrastructure costs. The municipality therefore set out to investigate whether the densification of Hoofddorp, Nieuw-Vennep and the surrounding areas was a viable alternative. De Zwarte Hond was commissioned to develop a densification vision and to provide support. This vision shows how more living and working space can be created within existing neighbourhoods and the benefits of densification for residents and entrepreneurs. By using the digital tool Swipocracy and imagining densification/improvement in recognizable places, it was possible to get Haarlemmermeer excited about densification. The results of the participation have been processed and have led to accentuations in the densification vision.


Haarlemmermeer Densification Vision
Gemeente Haarlemmermeer, NL
200 km²
Gemeente Haarlemmermeer
Research, Urban Design
Integrale verstedelijkingsstrategie
Development Phase
More info