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Sebastiaan Capel: 'It's all about my city'

Alumnus testimonial

Sebastiaan Capel graduated in Human Geography in 1999

FMG Human Geography - Sebastiaan Capel
Sebastiaan Capel, Photo: Katrien Mulder

I landed in politics by chance as a consequence of my fascination and passion for the city. In my studies and my career up until now, the city has always played a central role. And as a native of Amsterdam, there's really only one city that I want to be involved in... After a few different positions at municipal services, and before that a work placement at the Spatial Planning Department, I joined the staff of the municipal council group for the D66 political party. Subsequently I stood for the municipal council elections and was appointed to the council in 2010. After the last elections I traded the council chamber for the Zuid urban district, where I now chair the executive committee full time.

Looking at the city

One of my first excursions as a student was a simple walk around the city with a lecturer. Looking at the city and trying to work out what's happening is a key part of my work. Why do people gravitate to certain neighbourhoods? What does that mean for local services? What is the impact of the growing number of families living in this city? How can we introduce more diversity and energy in the Zuidas district? To answer these questions and make decisions about them, you have to know what's going on. You have to do a lot of looking around and listening, ask questions and then be able to put all that information together, see the connections and set to work. Being able to link theory and research, broad ideas and concrete events, is something I learned during my studies and that I can put into practice in my job as the South urban district chair.


Up until now I've usually been able to make the city my sphere of work and thematic focus, which is great, as that was my reason for choosing Human Geography in the first place, and it's what I'm interested in and passionate about to this day. I also make an effort to refresh my knowledge and interest outside work, such as by reading, attending lectures (for instance at Pakhuis de Zwijger) and talking about the city with all sorts of people. And writing, too – even if it's just a simple blog – can stretch your focus beyond the here and now. Even in a job like mine that is directly concerned with the city, there's a big risk of losing that wider inspiration – after all, there's always work to be done. But that's precisely when it's important to free up time go in search of inspiration and the broader context and insights. In my case, the city itself and the evolution of cities and of people in general is what provides that inspiration. That's how it was when I was a student, and that's how it still is.