Dutchtown - Almere City Centre by OMA/Rem Koolhaas is the title of an exhibition going on show in the Balcony Room of the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI). It highlights the future city centre of Almere, which has been designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), headed by Rem Koolhaas.
The emphasis in the exhibition is on the process underlying the realization of Almere city centre, and accordingly it reveals the motives and arguments of OMA's partners: the local council in Almere and the development companies MAB and Blauwhoed. The Balcony Room has been fitted out as a conference hall for the exhibition. In the centre is a glass-top table, 18 metres in length, in which around 50 working models are presented. A video screen at the head of the table shows images of a large presentation model, allowing the public to take an imaginary walk through the centre or a nose-flight over the city. Five monitors along the edge of the table show the main players in the centre's development process, among them Rem Koolhaas of OMA, the responsible alderman from Almere, and one of the developers. On the left wall of the Balcony Room, characteristic features of Dutchtown are illustrated with plans and images. On the right wall are the architectural designs for the development: including the pop centre, the cinema, and the parking garage.

The first pieces of Almere date back a quarter of a century. The city was built on the polder expanses, and what it lacked was not only a context but also an historical centre. Some years ago it was decided to fulfil the constantly postponed dream of a genuine town centre with the realization of OMA's design. In the meantime, the design of Almere centre has developed to the point where various architects are engaged in the detailed elaboration of plan components; those invited include Alsop & Störmer, de Architekten Cie., Claus en Kaan, and Kazuyo Sejima.

The authorities in Almere emphatically depicted the new centre as a point of concentration and centrality. Thus the choice was for a traditional interpretation of the city centre as the geographic and programmatic heart of the city. Almere aims to be complete and to acquire everything it currently lacks: a world trade centre, a convivial ambience in the central area, and even an historical castle brought all the way from Belgium.
In 1994 the city authorities set out their wishes in the Paper on Almere Centre 2005 and organized a limited competition for the design of a new centre. The task was to translate the programme outlined in the paper into an urban design vision. The invited offices were: Gert Urhahn, Bureau Quadrat, Teun Koolhaas, and OMA.
The brief asked for a recognizable centre, something special, something different: "An overall theme will distinguish Almere centre from other centres. This is necessary because it lacks an historical structure of character and because outlets of the national retail chains are making Dutch city centres resemble one another more and more. Almere is hoping for an attractive cityscape with a skyline, which will provide the flat and sprawling development with a point of concentration and demarcation. The new centre will give Almere a picture-postcard image, a unique logo to distinguish it from all other cities."
OMA gave substance to all these alluring phrases in its own distinct way. In the OMA plan the new development was sensational rather than unassuming; high rather than low; concentrated rather than dispersed across a grid. The plan was officially declared the winner on December 1, 1994. OMA used only half of the locations earmarked for centre development. A large portion of land was set aside as reserve space for later, unforeseen developments. All functions are layered one on top of another to form a single built structure - a megastructure in which all functions are optimally interconnected via short vertical connections and in which empty spaces and voids provide visual coherence. Owing to the intense interconnection of all urban activities, a megastructure is created. The new Almere is therefore more closely related to the metropolitan architecture of the 1960s than to the picturesque approach that characterized the first developments in Almere Haven in the 1970s.

The NAI has decided to devote an exhibition and publication to this project for various reasons. In the first place, the issue of city-centre identity is one of today's most important cultural tasks. Furthermore, the project is of importance as the urban expression of the Polder Model in operation. The design gives shape to a diversity of needs and interests. Finally, the new Almere is also of note within the context of the OMA oeuvre, which is now of an impressive thematic richness.