Located 20 minutes from Amsterdam by train Almere became a municipality in 1984 making it one of the youngest cities in the Netherlands. From the completion of the first house in 1976 Almere has grown rapidly and now has a population of 184,000 citizens. The rapid increase in population and housing left Almere without a comprehensive urban plan or defined centre.
In 1994 OMA was commisioned to develop a masterplan for the centre of Almere. The masterplan and process of implementing the plan, it's ambitions and long list of contributing starchitects has been widely published. The new centre creates a distinct urban hierachy that organises a number of smaller centers that currently provide facilities to their immediate areas and provides a number of functions that Almere was lacking, in particular cultural facilities such as a museum, theatre and library. The scale of the proposed functions facilitates the continued growth and redefinition of the identity of the city.
The masterplan also includes a number of large scale retail spaces that are required for the steadily increasing population and economic growth of Almere. The overall feeling of the new center of Almere is that of a giant shopping mall as the ground floor of the majority of buildings is devoted to retail and an over abundance of signage and advertising. The location of the cultural buildings are either on the periphery or covered by retail and give the city an overwhelming sense of rampant commericialism.
The buidings seem to be competing for attention regardless of whether they contain a shoe shop, a mcdonalds, apartments or a library. The inconsistent style and quality of the architecture creates an identity of a city that is equally inconsistent and confusing and lacks the charm and mix of uses, public and private spaces and diversity of outdoor parks and boulevards that are created from a city that grows slowly over a prolonged period of time.