Arguably, the concept of modernity flourished in Amsterdam later than its European counterparts due to its unique history. Despite having changed hands many times among the Spanish, French and Dutch, Amsterdam was still an important port city in the region due to its proximity to the Southern Sea. By the 17th century, concepts of modernity had begun to take shape in the design of spaces.

Notably, in the Southeastern part of Amsterdam (in grey) was neighbourhood Plantaadje. Modernity is displayed through the planning and building of perpendicular streets. Initially designed for the purpose of urban expansion, the land was converted into gardens and orchards eventually.

Figure 1. Amsterdam in 1675. Image screenshot from

In the time of the 19th century, Amsterdam had experienced its second economic boom  (following an economic stagnation) powered by expansion of its colonial power. At this time, a new public space emerged in the Southwest of Amsterdam–Now called the Vondelpark, but for the first two years of its existence called Het Nieuwe Park (The New Park).

Figure 2. Vondelpark in 1865. The park has also been sectioned in a methodological way – a tinge of modernity. In the north of the park lies a row of housing for the bourgeoisies. Image from
Figure 3. Vondelpark (bottom left), on the outside of what the Renaissance border of the city. Image screenshot from

What could explain the emergence of this new ‘public’ park, and its potential significance to the bourgeoisie community (up till 1900)? Following are some clues:

Firstly, it was built at a time after population growth, after the phenomenon of suburbanisation. The rich were buying houses in the south, beyond the traditional demarcation of the city’s limits, in the vicinity of Vondelpark.
Secondly, a park of such a great scale was funded by individuals, without the help of the state.
Thirdly, although the park was made public, poorly dressed people were kept out by supervisors.
Lastly, the park was made for horse-riding purposes.

With these in mind, here is a possible conclusion: The park was funded and built by the bourgeoisie for their own class. Though claiming to be public, the infrastructure and activity were not designed for the working class without transport nor time. With a crowd of their own class, Vondelpark held the potential for dialogues pertaining to the politics of that time – perhaps including frustration with overcrowding in the city – in a somewhat private and protected setting away from the political presence within the city.

Featured Image:
Taken by Yi Le Danielle Poh with Canon G16

  • Of Vondelpark, Amsterdam: October 2016

Amsterdam. (2016). Retrieved October 03, 2016, from

Bontje, M. A., & Sleutjes, B. H. (2015, June 26). Amsterdam: History meets modernity. Pathways to creative and knowledge- based regions. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from

Homburg, H. (2016, August 12). Vondelpark – Park History from 1864 to 1884 – Hans Homburg. Retrieved October 03, 2016, from