Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Corridors and Slums of Amsterdam

The fabric of Amsterdam is defined by its canals, its tall narrow buildings and its network of streets and alleys.Amsterdam also has lots of 'gangen'. These are small alley like paths between buildings which, unlike alleys, don't lead to another street, but instead lead to a dead end. These narrow corridors often lead to enclosed courtyards. Because these enclosed courtyards are hidden from the main thoroughfares in the past they were often colonized by the less fortunate, who would build dilapidated shelters or illegal buildings in which to live. 

Old gangen can be found throughout the center of Amsterdam but are more prevalent in the medieval center and in the Jordaan. However because of historical efforts to clear slum housing and because of urban renewal many of Amsterdam's original gangen have been built upon, walled up or given gates. Once there were more than 1,300 gangens in Amsterdam, now only about about 400 of these corridors survive.

Amsterdam's city council has now made an inventory of Amsterdam's surviving gangen and created an interactive map to show the locations of these historic corridors. The Gangen and Sloppen map (sloppen = slums) colors Amsterdam's streets to show the location of 'big' and 'small' gangen, courtyards and inner areas. The map also contains information on the history of the city's gangen and the slum housing that evolved with them.

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