(Un)monumenting: the monumental NDSM

As part of the exhibition (Un)monumenting: The Future Should Always Be Better, in the coming weeks we explore the subject of “monuments.” What are monuments, or what should they be, why do they exist, and for whom?

In this article, we delve into the monumental site of NDSM, specifically the “monumental heritage” in the form of buildings and objects dating back to the past found at the shipyard. The precise meaning of monumental heritage is open for debate. However, according to the National Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE) of the Netherlands, one definition is upheld: “Monuments are historic buildings, archaeological sites, or man-made green structures, such as parks.” These are protected by the national government, province, or municipality because of their cultural-historical value, as stated by the RCE.

At the NDSM shipyard, you’ll encounter several of these national monuments listed in the national monument register. When using the postal code of the NDSM shipyard into this search engine yields several hits: the Smederij, NDSM Warehouse, Lasloods (welding warehoude), and the hellingen (ship ramps).


The Smederij, recognizable for its typical “gable roofs,” is a collection of buildings and a square at the heart of the NDSM wharf. This building, dating back to 1909, initially stood at the old NSM in Oostenburg and was used for sheet metal processing. Since 1927, it has been situated at its current location and comprises facades with a steel framework structure featuring compartments of various sizes alternated with brick masonry. It also includes door and window sections with square panes. Following the relocation of the NSM wharf to the Noorder IJ polder in the north, the building was dismantled and rebuilt in two parts at the new wharf location. Sheet metal processing at the wharf subsequently took place in the large Shipbuilding Warehouse (NDSM Warehouse), allowing the Smederij to be repurposed. The first and largest part after relocation became the Carpentry Shop, used for machine woodwork, furniture making, veneer, and polishing work. The other, smaller part was arranged as the Smederij, where smaller forging tasks were carried out for components that couldn’t be purchased off the shelf, such as ship hardware and tools. In the lower building with gabled roofs, known as the Central Workshop, electrical and pneumatic tools were loaned out and maintained. This workshop was also referred to as the ‘air depot.’

The Smederij was restored to its former glory in 2014 by G&S& (formerly BMB development) in collaboration with monument conservation. The buildings now serve as an inspiring meeting place and business spaces housing, among others, the Greenpeace Foundation, Paramount Benelux, Emolife Campaigning, and the DoubleTree by Hilton. On the square at Smederij nowadays you can find public art installations like Highrise Campsite: Nature City by Willem de Haan, Dazzle Trip by Yamuna Forzani, Monument by Manaf Halbouni and many more.

NDSM Warehouse

An icon of NDSM: the Shipbuilding Hall, also known as the NDSM Warehouse, celebrated its hundredth birthday in 2020. Anyone who has been inside the NDSM Warehouse is familiar with its enormous size defined by brick facades with a steel framework structure, tall blue doors, and window sections with narrow, tall windows. During the shipbuilding era, multiple parts of the production process were carried out in this building, but primarily, large steel plates were processed here before being taken (from 1952 onwards) to the Lasloods for assembly.

After the shipbuilding era, the NDSM Warehouse was abandoned and fell into disrepair. From the 1990s, artists occupied spaces at NDSM: several buildings on the shipyard were squatted, including the NDSM Warehouse, leading to the creation of incubator spaces and studios that laid the foundation for the cultural identity NDSM carries today. The incubator that emerged at that time was later further developed under the management of Stichting Kinetisch Noord and is now known as “The Art City.” With 80 studios, the Art City covers roughly a third of the immense area of the NDSM Warehouse. Other parts of the hall are rented out for film shoots, photo sessions, dance, music and theater performances, exhibitions, auctions, corporate and dance parties, markets, conferences, and much more.

Welding Warehouse

It’s not hard to guess what happened in the Lasloods (Welding Warehouse) during the shipbuilding era: welding took place. The massive steel plates formed and cut in the NDSM Warehouse were brought here to be assembled. This was done via a steam locomotive named Jumbo on rails found throughout the entire site. Fun fact: the rails, like the buildings mentioned in this article, have been designated as cultural heritage and thus cannot be altered or removed from the shipyard (although they have been filled to prevent accidents).

After the shipbuilding era, the Lasloods was also abandoned for a while before serving various purposes, including, in later years, being a venue for the winter IJ-hallen flea market. From this market and its guests arose the demand for more artistic use of the large hall during the market. This evolved into the eventual approval of the idea of a Street Art Museum. The STRAAT Museum has now been on NDSM for 4 years and is an integral part of the street art that has been present across the shipyard for years.

The Ramps

In the post-World War II shipbuilding era, there were 8 ramps across the entire NDSM shipyard. Immense mammoth tankers were built on these ramps, or they were used for material storage. When the ships were ready, they were disconnected from the ramps and launched into the water. The “slopedoor” that needed to open for this purpose still lies in the water at NDSM near the Feralda Crane (Crane 13). The latter is an original crane that operated during the shipbuilding era at NDSM and has now been fully restored and is in use as a hotel.

Most of the ramps were demolished after the bankruptcy of NDSM as a shipyard, except for two: the small X-ramp and the large Y-ramp. The Y-ramp and the spaces below it provide space for numerous artists and small businesses. The office of the NDSM shipyard foundation is also located under the Y-ramp. The X-ramp is currently undergoing renovation, but even in this smaller ramp, studios are usually found.

The aforementioned buildings are designated as National Monuments. But what does that actually mean? Is a historical context necessary to eventually obtain a monumental status, or is a monument more than that? And how should contemporary monuments look? These are the questions we’ll be examining over the coming weeks in the context of the exhibition (Un)monumenting: The Future Should Always Be Better. Follow us on our social media channels and don’t miss anything!

Would you like to learn more about the shipbuilding history of the NDSM shipyard? Check out the website of Stichting NDSM Herleeft via the button below.


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