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Discovering Amsterdam's Bridges: A Guide to the City's Iconic Landmarks

Jan Schaefer Bridge – Amsterdam bridge number: 2000

The Jan Schaeferbrug: A Bridge Born from Collaboration and Innovation

Jan Schaefer Bridge is another of Amsterdam’s newer bridges. It passes through the middle of Pakhuis De Zwijgerand spans the 200 metre-wide IJ Harbour. Every five years the bridge is dismantled for Sail Amsterdam.

The Jan Schaeferbrug, also known as Amsterdam Bridge Number 2000, gracefully spans over the IJhaven in the Eastern Docklands of Amsterdam, creating a vital link between Piet Heinkade and Java Island. This architecturally impressive bridge was skilfully designed by architect Ton Venhoeven and holds a meaningful namesake, honouring the memory of the esteemed politician Jan Schaefer (1940-1994).

The Jan Schaeferbrug, initially known as the Java Bridge, stands as a remarkable feat of architectural engineering in Amsterdam’s Eastern Docklands. This bridge was conceived as part of the grand vision to establish a new residential area on Java Island, a plan that gained clarity in the “Second Memorandum of Principles for the Eastern Docklands” around 1990. As the project progressed, the challenge to preserve historical landmarks and navigate waterway usage added unique complexities to the construction process. Ultimately, the Jan Schaeferbrug emerged as a testament to innovative design and strategic planning, providing a seamless connection between Piet Heinkade and Java Island, while preserving important remnants of Amsterdam’s rich history.

The Vision Takes Shape:

In the early stages of the project, the concept revolved around creating a new residential area on Java Island, among other developments in the Eastern Docklands. The “Second Memorandum of Principles for the Eastern Docklands” laid the groundwork for this ambitious endeavour in the early 1990s. As plans evolved, a key consideration was to ensure accessibility for both residents and the general public.

An Innovative Approach:

Initially, the idea of constructing a pontoon bridge was entertained, which could be easily removed to accommodate events like Sail Amsterdam. However, the Amsterdam Inland Waterways Association expressed concerns about the obstruction it would cause for waterway navigation. As the discussion continued, the decision was made to opt for a permanent bridge, ensuring a stable link between the two areas.

Preserving Amsterdam’s Heritage:

Another challenge emerged as the development project progressed. Several warehouses along the Oostelijke Handelskade held historical significance for Amsterdam. While some had already been demolished to make way for new constructions, one, in particular, stood as a valuable piece of the city’s heritage – Warehouse the Silent. The municipality sought to preserve this landmark while constructing the bridge, leading to an ingenious and unprecedented design solution.

A Unique Construction:

To preserve Warehouse the Silent, a novel approach was undertaken. The Jan Schaeferbrug was designed in such a way that its south end gently landed within the warehouse itself. This thoughtful integration allowed the bridge to coexist harmoniously with the historical structure, paying homage to Amsterdam’s architectural legacy.

The Jan Schaeferbrug, a remarkable architectural feat connecting Piet Heinkade with Java Island in Amsterdam, is the result of a creative competition organized by the municipality in 1996. After receiving designs from four agencies, the project group, residents, and the Fietsersbond (Cyclists’ Union) weighed in with their approval for the top contenders – Thijs Verburg / Rob Hoogendijk and Ton Venhoeven. The final selection process involved finding a balance between “beauty” and “safety,” with discussions centering on social safety versus road safety. In the end, Verhoeven’s design emerged victorious, though with some modifications. This article delves into the collaborative journey that brought the Jan Schaeferbrug to life, showcasing its unique features and innovative approach.

A Competition of Creativity:

In 1996, the municipality of Amsterdam organized a competition to find the best design for the bridge. Four agencies presented their visions, and the designs of Thijs Verburg / Rob Hoogendijk and Ton Venhoeven garnered widespread acclaim. These designs resonated with the municipal project group, local residents, and the Fietsersbond, setting the stage for the final selection process.

Balancing Beauty and Safety:

As the competition progressed, the criteria for selection encompassed both aesthetics and safety. Social safety, emphasising visibility and connection among users, clashed with road safety, which necessitated separate traffic flows. Striking a harmonious balance between these elements proved challenging but crucial for the bridge’s functionality and appeal.

Verhoeven’s Design Triumphs:

Thijs Verburg’s design ultimately prevailed, marking a milestone in Amsterdam’s architectural landscape. The winning design underwent some adaptations, resulting in the final rendition of the Jan Schaeferbrug. Although a pontoon bridge variant was considered, it was ultimately deemed too expensive and discarded, though remnants of its concept can still be seen in the pillars.

Distinctive Features:

The Jan Schaeferbrug’s unique features set it apart as an architectural gem. The bridge boasts broad, outstanding pillars and separate lanes for various traffic flows, accommodating motorised traffic and cyclists as well as pedestrians. Riding decks extend over not just the water but also the associated quays, with footpaths thoughtfully designed to evoke the impression of gangways. To ensure inclusivity, slots were integrated along the footpaths, allowing cyclists who prefer not to tackle steep slopes an alternative route.

A Bridge for Sail Amsterdam:

The Jan Schaeferbrug was designed with special consideration for Sail Amsterdam, accommodating large sailing ships in the Java harbor. Two removable sections, anchored by a central pillar, facilitate the passage of these majestic vessels. This ingenious feature was first showcased at Sail Amsterdam in August 2005, demonstrating the bridge’s adaptability and versatility.


The Jan Schaeferbrug, also affectionately known as the Java Bridge, stands as a testament to Amsterdam’s commitment to thoughtful urban planning and architectural preservation. As it elegantly spans over the IJhaven, connecting Piet Heinkade and Java Island, this bridge not only provides a vital link for the city’s residents but also preserves an important piece of Amsterdam’s history. Its unique design and successful integration with Warehouse the Silent symbolise the city’s harmonious blend of past and future. The Jan Schaeferbrug is more than just a bridge; it is a testament to Amsterdam’s innovative spirit and dedication to preserving its rich cultural heritage.

The Jan Schaeferbrug stands as a testament to collaboration, creativity, and innovation in Amsterdam’s urban planning. Born from a competition that sought the perfect blend of beauty and safety, this bridge embodies a harmonious integration of road users and celebrates Amsterdam’s architectural legacy. With its distinctive design and adaptability, the Jan Schaeferbrug continues to serve as a functional and symbolic link between Piet Heinkade and Java Island, capturing the essence of Amsterdam’s progressive and forward-thinking spirit.

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