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Here Comes Amsterdam’s Man-Made Island for Sustainable, Affordable Housing

Centrumeiland will soon hold hundreds of affordable homes with the lightest of possible carbon footprints.
A mock-up of how Centrumeiland might look when complete. The already completed parts of the IJburg archipelago are shown to the left.
A mock-up of how Centrumeiland might look when complete. The already completed parts of the IJburg archipelago are shown to the left.Atelier Puuur IJCE

More than 20 years ago, looking for space for new homes, Amsterdam decided to build some islands. It came up with a grand scheme, begun in 1997, to have a 10-island archipelago rise from the waters of IJmeer lake, capable of holding 18,000 homes.

One of those islands—Centrumeiland, or “Center Island”—rose above the waterline in 2015, when it found its first life as a campsite and arts installation. This year, it’s finally ready for building, and the plans for this new land are nearly as striking as the creation of the island itself. Soon to emerge on the new land is something that could stand as a global example: A new community that will be 70 percent self-built, populated mainly with affordable homes that will leave the lightest of possible carbon footprints.