NDSM: Are You Tough Enough?

RICHARD J WILLIAMS

What you’re looking at are a handful of pictures of the former NDSM shipyard in Amsterdam (NDSM stands for Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij – Netherlands Dock and Shipbuilding Company). It’s a place I’ve visited often the past two years researching a book on creativity and the city. The yard was built in 1946, largely supported by US Marshall Plan funds, and until it closed in 1984, it built up to six vessels per year, including some of the largest tankers for the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Shell, whose headquarters can be found nearby. You get there by ferry from Amsterdam Centraalstation – it chugs downstream for twenty minutes through a landscape of enormous skies and rehabilitated industrial ruins, depositing you in an unearthly, description-defying place….which I am now going to try to describe.

NDSM is building on an epic scale, but its qualities exceed architecture in the strict sense. It is…

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