KNSM Island

The KNSM Island is a man-made island[1] in the Eastern Docklands of Amsterdam. It is named for the Koninklijke Nederlandsche Stoomboot-Maatschappij (KNSM), the Royal Dutch Steamboat Shipping company which used to have its headquarters and its docks on the island.[2] It is now a large residential area containing modern architecture with a mostly well-off population.[3]

KNSM Island
Neighborhood of Amsterdam
Coordinates: 52°22′37″N 4°56′34″E
Named forKoninklijke Nederlandsche Stoomboot Maatschappij (KNSM)


Originally, the island was a breakwater for the Oostelijke Handelskade, just like the adjacent Java Island. Later its level was raised with soil dredged from the North Sea Canal. The ensuing harbor terrain was occupied in 1903 by the KNSM, which covered most of the island. In 1956 the KNSM celebrated its centennial, but the decolonization of the Dutch East Indies and the growth of cargo transport spelled the end of the company, which merged into Nedlloyd in 1981. KNSM moved some of its to the Western Docklands of Amsterdam and stopped others, and finally left the area in 1977. In the 1980s, squatters, artists, and urban nomads took over the area.[4] In the 1990s, these groups that occupied what had come to be known as "sloaps" ("sites left over after [or before] planning") and had originally been tolerated, were slowly ordered out by the city.[5]


In the 1990s the entire area was reshaped into a housing area, based on a 1988 blueprint by Jo Coenen, his first big project.[6] He envisioned a mixed use of the space, and planned "super blocks,"[7] big buildings containing lots of individual homes and apartments, along a central avenue, mimicking the organization of the island's former warehouses and storage buildings.[8] The redevelopment of the island was part of a masterplan that would turn the entire Eastern Docklands into modern residential areas to allow the city to expand.[9] Many of the old buildings on the KNSM Island were preserved by order of the city, such as the old cafeteria, the houses of the medical doctors, a storage building ("Loods 6"), a customs building, and the office of the Rijn Scheepvaart Maatschappij. While plans initially called for a rather exclusive neighborhood of home owners, the city mandated that a significant portion of the homes were to be built as rentals, to attract a more diverse population.[10] Still, the island is known as a place for yuppies;[11] the English paper The Telegraph called it "Dockland chic."[7]

Loods 6 currently contains artists' work spaces, a gallery, and an art exchange.[12] The building, a showcase of 1950s design and architecture, also houses an exposition dedicated to the island's history. The former company park from 1956 was preserved and restored in 1994, with the help of original designer Mien Ruys; it was renamed in her honor to Mien Ruysplantsoen.[13]


The Azartplein links the KNSM Island to the Java Island, and is the final stop of tram line 7.

New buildings on the island

  • Emerald Empire, by Jo Coenen.
  • Piraeus, by German architects Hans Kollhoff and Christian Rapp (1989–1994). 304 homes in 150 different types, 95% of which low-income housing.[14]
  • Albert, by Belgian architect Bruno Albert, with a metal fence by Belgian artist Narcisse Tordoir.[15]
  • Sky Dome, a twenty-story apartment building by Wiel Arets.[16]
  • Hoogland, by Swiss architectural firm Diener & Diener.


When the KNSM celebrated its centennial, in 1959, the employees donated a group of sculptures and a fountain, dedicated to Amphitrite and made by Dutch/Flemish sculptor Albert Termote. The sculptures had to be moved to make way for housing in 1981 and were removed to the Oosterdok, near the Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum.[17] In 2009 they returned to the island in the Azartplein.[18][19]


  2. "KNSM heeft straks geen eigen schepen meer". Trouw. 3 September 1996. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  3. "KNSM-eiland". Oostelijk Havengebied Amsterdam. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  4. "Achtergrond van het KNSM-Eiland". VPRO. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  5. Coolen, Barbara (9 April 1993). "Amsterdam wil deel 'nomaden' gedogen/'Het beleid blijft tegengaan van magneetwerking'". Trouw. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  6. Englert, Klaus (19 January 2004). ""Die Niederlande neu gestalten" Jo Coenen als niederländischer Reichsbaumeister". Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  7. Mawer, Fred (17 September 2005). "Dockland chic in the city of canals". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  8. Roos, Robbert (30 April 1998). "Java-eiland en Borneo/Sporenburg: speeltuin voor architecten in het Oostelijk Havengebied". Trouw (in Dutch). Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  9. Haastrecht, Ruud van (25 July 1996). "Het Oostelijk havengebied in Amsterdam is de springplank naar IJburg in zee". Trouw. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  10. Evenhuis, Arend (14 April 1994). "Het KNSM-eiland is ingenomen en meteen weer vol". Trouw. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  11. "Leven en Werken - deel 1". VPRO. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  12. "Amsterdamse schatten: fashion en design: Stad verrast constant met nieuw talent op onverwachte plekken". TourPRessHolland. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  13. "Kunstwerken a tot z: Buurttafel - Mien Ruysplantsoen". Kunstwerken op straat. Stadsdeel Zeeburg, Amsterdam. Archived from the original on 9 August 2010. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  14. "Woongebouw "Piraeus"" (in Dutch). Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  15. "Woongebouw "Albert"" (in Dutch). Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  16. "Woontoren Sky Dome" (in Dutch). Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  17. "Moet Amphitrite terug naar KNSM-eiland?". Zeeburg Nieuws. 12 May 2000. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  18. "Onthulling Amphitrite". De Echo. 13 May 2009. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  19. "Amphitrite eindelijk thuis". De Echo. 21 May 2009. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
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