Whereas the city of Rotterdam is regenerating its docklands as a multi-use extension of the city centre, Amsterdam is redeveloping its eastern harbour purely as housing. And mainly yuppie housing at that, with loft-style apartments and even more stylish owner-developer town houses. Java and Borneo are the most recent of four narrow quays to be redeveloped.

The urban designers have drawn inspiration from Amsterdam's historic heart of tall, tightly packed houses overlooking canals, and have set an amazingly high density of 100 dwellings/ha.

At Java, sheer walls of housing have been built hard up to the dockside roads on either side, rising to six storeys on the south bank and eight on the north. Four narrow canals cross the quay, dividing it into five large hollow rectangles of housing enclosing large traffic-free courtyards. The facades facing the courtyards are less restrained, and the courtyards are luxuriantly landscaped, producing attractive communal gardens sheltered from the wind.

Borneo quay, in contrast, has been subdivided longitudinally by narrow roads and long terraces of houses built hard up to the pavements. The most spectacular terrace is a strip just 16 m deep between pavement and water, which has been sold off in 60 plots averaging 5 m in width for owner-developers to do their own thing, within the constraints of the site.

This owner-developer strip has stimulated some of the most avant-garde architectural experiments. Interior and exterior spaces frequently dovetail into each other, and in a couple of houses designed by MVRDV and Höhne & Rapp, the excitement is increased by narrow open-air passageways that traverse the living accommodation from front to back.