The Amsterdam Red Light District is a unique part of the city, with exceptional urban qualities and an exuberant diversity of urban functions, inhabitants and users.
The area is excessively layered. Throughout the centuries, all kinds of things have constantly been added, removed, expanded, changed, ignored and improved, to this very day.
Divergent, close-knit communities are permanently based in the area. Sex workers, artists, student fraternities, Coptic entrepreneurs, religious groups, a large Chinese and queer community.
Large crowds fill the area from the late afternoon onwards, enhancing a – for Amsterdam unusual – feeling of sensory intensity, limitless expectation, needless friction and positive disorientation.
Compassion is part and parcel of the area's DNA. Organisations supporting addicts and the homeless. Unions standing side by side with sex workers. Medical facilities working for undocumented migrants.
Unique shops, initiatives and places operate and survive in the area. De Prael Brewery helps people with difficulty to get a job. Red Light Radio unites the avant-garde of the music scene. Dun Yong provides the neighbourhood and the city with the best Asian products.
Norms are continuously questioned, stretched and re-established here. The untameable crowds create a possibility for subversion, escaping and getting lost.
Heritage abounds, and there is plenty of room for experimentation without interference from strict UNESCO regulations. The historicising new building of Our Dear Lord in the Attic, a futuristic 3D-printed bridge over a historic canal and the exceptional programming of, in, and on the Old Church.
Debauchery and reflection, togetherness and loneliness, longing and aversion, experiment and repetition, a quick visit or a long-term connection. In this neighbourhood, visual and social contrasts follow each other quickly, in space and time.
The Red Light District is a breathtaking urban collage. While the rest of Amsterdam is rapidly becoming a homogeneous, smooth and predictable interior, this area offers physical and mental space to different worlds to coexist, collide, learn from each other and relate to each other again.