»Architectural interpretations accepted without reflection could obscure the search for signs of a true nature and a higher order.«

Louis Isadore Kahn

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Amsterdam Ark-itecture

  • The de Ceuvel project is mainly made of one of Amsterdam’s most important built residential forms: houseboats. (Photo: Martin van Wijk) 1 / 20  The de Ceuvel project is mainly made of one of Amsterdam’s most important built residential forms: houseboats. (Photo: Martin van Wijk)
  • space&matter collected some 15 discarded boats‚ refurbished them and placed them on site... (Photo: Martin van Wijk) 2 / 20  space&matter collected some 15 discarded boats‚ refurbished them and placed them on site... (Photo: Martin van Wijk)
  • ...re-purposing them as office and commercial buildings a well as a restaurant and an event space. (Photo: Martin van Wijk) 3 / 20  ...re-purposing them as office and commercial buildings a well as a restaurant and an event space. (Photo: Martin van Wijk)
  • The meandering boardwalk connecting the boats reminds visitors of a waterway‚ and an overall playfulness of this shipyard/village is as inescapable as welcome. (Photo: Martin van Wijk) 4 / 20  The meandering boardwalk connecting the boats reminds visitors of a waterway‚ and an overall playfulness of this shipyard/village is as inescapable as welcome. (Photo: Martin van Wijk)
  • The 450-metre-long walkway is raised on stilts‚ allowing provision of water and electricity beneath and protecting the “phytoremedial” plants . (Photo: Martin van Wijk) 5 / 20  The 450-metre-long walkway is raised on stilts‚ allowing provision of water and electricity beneath and protecting the “phytoremedial” plants . (Photo: Martin van Wijk)
  • The site plan... 6 / 20  The site plan...
  • ... and the initial rendering show the playful arrangement of the boats creating an idyllic playground for Amsterdam’s hipster crowd. (All drawings: Space & Matter) 7 / 20  ... and the initial rendering show the playful arrangement of the boats creating an idyllic playground for Amsterdam’s hipster crowd. (All drawings: Space & Matter)
  • Yet it is a temporary idyll‚ the site is only on a 10-year loan from the city and, as a former brownfield‚ has a severly polluted soil. 8 / 20  Yet it is a temporary idyll‚ the site is only on a 10-year loan from the city and, as a former brownfield‚ has a severly polluted soil.
  • So the project is actually more about giving the plants time to do their job: cleaning the soil of its pollutants. 9 / 20  So the project is actually more about giving the plants time to do their job: cleaning the soil of its pollutants.
  • But it also brings temporary social life to the area and raises its commercial attractiveness. 10 / 20  But it also brings temporary social life to the area and raises its commercial attractiveness.
  • After ten years of use‚ the houseboats will be probably get towed away to make space for a more permanent‚ more profitable purpose. 11 / 20  After ten years of use‚ the houseboats will be probably get towed away to make space for a more permanent‚ more profitable purpose.
  • There is a clear attitude of ad-hoc-style design. (Photo: Martin van Wijk) 12 / 20  There is a clear attitude of ad-hoc-style design. (Photo: Martin van Wijk)
  • The looping boardwalk is dotted with skillfully repurposed elements. (Photo: Martin van Wijk) 13 / 20  The looping boardwalk is dotted with skillfully repurposed elements. (Photo: Martin van Wijk)
  • The boats were put on site by crane. (Photo: Jean-Pierre Jans) 14 / 20  The boats were put on site by crane. (Photo: Jean-Pierre Jans)
  • The reconditioning of the boats was cheap‚ but time-consuming since each boat had its own issues. (Photo: Martin van Wijk) 15 / 20  The reconditioning of the boats was cheap‚ but time-consuming since each boat had its own issues. (Photo: Martin van Wijk)
  • One major investment factor in the boats was for good insulation – minimising long-term running costs and environmental impact. (Photo: Martin van Wijk) 16 / 20  One major investment factor in the boats was for good insulation – minimising long-term running costs and environmental impact. (Photo: Martin van Wijk)
  • Many of the boats had been neglected for years and needed massive reconstruction. (Photo: Martin van Wijk) 17 / 20  Many of the boats had been neglected for years and needed massive reconstruction. (Photo: Martin van Wijk)
  • Simple decisions‚ such as to raise the roofs of the boats, dramatically improved spatial quality. (Photo: Martin van Wijk) 18 / 20  Simple decisions‚ such as to raise the roofs of the boats, dramatically improved spatial quality. (Photo: Martin van Wijk)
  • Today the site hosts ten start-up companies‚ three commercial spaces, an event space and a café... (Photo: Martin van Wijk) 19 / 20  Today the site hosts ten start-up companies‚ three commercial spaces, an event space and a café... (Photo: Martin van Wijk)
  • (img 3149) The café is a draw for many Amsterdamers and visitors to step outside of the historic city and bask on a sunny waterfront terrace. (Photo: deCeuvel.nl) 20 / 20  (img 3149) The café is a draw for many Amsterdamers and visitors to step outside of the historic city and bask on a sunny waterfront terrace. (Photo: deCeuvel.nl)

De Ceuvel‚ a beached boat community in Amsterdam‚ is sailing through red tape and conventions to become a successful commercial city attraction that marks the way forward for more people-centric planning, says uncube correspondent Jason Hilgefort.

In 2012‚ the City of Amsterdam offered a challenging call for development proposals for a 4‚470 m2 piece of waterfront land. The plot was offered for free‚ but with a series of caveats: it was only available for ten years and had to be a clear site at the end of that time‚ it could not include housing‚ it must attract the endlessly desirable “creative” crowd‚ and its polluted soil needed to be cleaned. This meant the winning pitch had to be innovative on environmental‚ economical, and construction fronts simultaneously.

space&matter‚ along with Marjolein Smeele‚ offered an ideal concoction for the solution of the project‚ which has come to be called De Ceuvel. Their first move was to allow the landscape to do a lot of the dirty work. Carefully selected plants absorbed and broke down pollutants in the contaminated soils in a process known as phytoremediation‚ while a series of lo-tech biofilters cleaned up the discharged water and sewage. Costs were drastically cut by collecting and reusing old houseboats from the Amsterdam canals (which are commonly discarded in favour of newer models) for the buildings.

Many time-consuming‚ red tape permit issues were avoided by refurbishing the boats on the water (no permit necessary to do so) and then hauling them on site afterwards. To both formally and functionally bind these diverse boats moored on dry land‚ a 450 m2 raised wooden walkway was added. It allows for pedestrian access without disturbing the cleansing plants or the provision of water and power to the units. These simple yet innovative steps of the De Ceuvel project are good examples of architecture’s potential for designing problem-solving strategies beyond the traditional bounds of the profession.

The boats were put on site by crane. (Photo: Jean-Pierre Jans)
 

The project is also indicative of a growing trend in our cities. Places such as Amsterdam used to be a draw to citizens because of their historic building fabric. Now most of the hot spots in Amsterdam (NDSM campus‚ Hannekes Boom‚ Roest, etc.) are not within the polished‚ museum-like centre‚ but located in the rough edges of the city instead. They do not represent the anti-city‚ but suggest a new notion of city – one less formal and more people focused‚ where event spaces are programmed alongside bars‚ restaurants and ateliers. These special places happen in cities where the local government administration knows how to foster innovation and when to look the other way with certain regulations.

Today the site hosts ten creative industries‚ three commercial spaces‚ an event space and a restaurant. In many ways‚ the café has become the centre of the project. Simple snacks and drinks are on offer for consumption while taking in the sun atop the battered concrete waterfront and sitting on a scattering of ad-hoc seats and chairs. Being only 15 minutes from the central station‚ it has drawn many newcomers to engage with the site and what it stands for. It can be seen as a new concept for urban workspaces in that it temporarily activates under-utilised land‚ with users that are being priced out of the city centre and all the while slowly cleans the damaged landscape with no danger to its inhabitants. There is a raw efficiency to its design and its functions‚ yet it provides a truly unique place: one where scenarios, such as the one I encountered the other day, of a naked wood-whittling hippy sitting on the boardwalk waving a familiar greeting to a suit-clad individual kayaking up to the wharf for an after-work designer beer and pizza, can seem the most natural thing in the world.

– Jason Hilgefort is the founder of Land+Civilization Compositions.
www.landandcc.com

 

deceuvel.nl

spaceandmatter.nl
smeelearchitecture.com

 

 

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