Category Archives: Architecture

Expressive Art Forms As Architectural Inventions

Federico Babina has a knack for architectural re-imaginations, whether it be depicting designer dwellings of style-conscious superheroes, or illustrating imaginary director-designed homes. The Italian creative now returns with a new series called ‘artitecture’, which sees 10 art forms envisioned as architectural inventions and delicate mechanical devices. Like kinetic sculptures frozen in time, the compositions’ ‘gears’ bring together inherent structural components of each artistic expression.


Babina’s ‘artitecture’ series pays tribute to various classifications of creative expression like music, comics, theater and dance. In each of the compositions, elements from the art form are abstracted and interpreted as structural systems, such as the keys of a piano, a painter’s brush, or a reel of film. ‘Art is the ability to convey emotions: a personal recipe made up of study, randomness, unconscious gestures, logic and intuition, all mixed to provide the sought formula…’ Babina says ‘…an assemblage of pieces that represent the artistic forms as intuitive elements.’ See more of Babina’s architectural illustrations here.

Second Life For 17th Century Furnace

The oven which was found by archaeologists of the Department of Monuments and Archaeology of the City of Amsterdam, a month ago at Spuistraat, will be rebuilt. Within 18 months one can be visiting the oven on the externally accessible courtyard of the new residential complex ‘De Keizer’ on Wijdesteeg in Amsterdam.

AMS-ontmanteling-oven

The oven that was found during the archaeological survey was part of the seventeenth century soap manufacture ‘De Clock’ (The Bell). Originally, the oven was used by brewery Delfftsche Wapen which was located in the same building from approximately 1510 to 1608. The oven consisted of a round brick construction with max. 3.4 m outside diameter, 1.3 m inner diameter and an inner wall of chamotte stone. The floor was made up of a lattice of chamotte bricks, supported by a structure of wrought iron. The iron door was still present and on the grate they found layers of peat blocks. The oven and the deeper boiler room could be reached through a brick staircase, which was filled up with construction debris and household waste from the last quarter of the 17th century. This archaeological dating fits in well with the historical fact that the ‘De Clock’ soap manufacture was closed in 1680.

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For those who can’t wait, the oven is recorded in a 3D model

Click here for the 3D model.

The director of the construction company who develops residential complex ‘De Keizer’ was particularly struck by the discovery and therefore decided to rebuild the furnace. The oven is carefully dismantled two weeks ago by a team of archaeologists and construction workers. The iron parts are being preserved in the coming period in the archaeological workshop. Later, the oven will again be built, brick by brick, in the courtyard of the complex. The courtyard will also externally accessible so interested parties can take a look.

DIY Through The Centuries

Self-assembly on IJburg
Self-assembly on IJburg

On June 18 and 19, the Day of Architecture Amsterdam was marked by self-assembly. Building a house on your own land*, where the design and execution are entirely separate from the house next door is back. Unique solutions within reach, tailored to individual needs. Who would not like that?

After a long period of stagnation, the Netherlands scrambled back to building in the late nineteenth century. Increasing urbanization caused great need for housing. Investors and contractors went to work and stamped barracks from the ground, often with small, stuffy homes with low light and poor quality as a result. This so-called revolution construction was already getting bad press. In response emerged in the twentieth century modernism, with rational buildings, attention to light and hygiene, but also the endless repetition of townhomes with Vinex as an end.

Illegal wooden houses outside the Haarlemmerpoort by Anthonis van den Wijngaerde (1547-1561) Amsterdam City Archives
Illegal wooden houses outside the Haarlemmerpoort by Anthonis van den Wijngaerde (1547-1561) Amsterdam City Archives

Who wanted to live in the city had the choice between existing buildings and often new too uniform constructions. Only in recent decades there has been a change. More and more people choose to build their own home, even if they share the sides with the neighbors. Looking further back in time, there’s nothing new under the sun. In the sixteenth century, when Amsterdam had a huge growth period, there was no space left inside the city walls, so people build their illegal dwellings outside the walls. A survey in 1564 showed that as many as 964 illegal houses and structures could be found outside the walls of the city.

In the construction of the canals, from 1613, they made a virtue into a necessity. Because the city needed money to dig canals, build bridges and to build new defenses, plots of lands were auctioned by district. Anyone with interest and money could buy a lot and build his own house. The city gave the embankments and some building heights of the terrain. Also, the city council gave the builders some simple rules in the seventeenth century, which everyone must adhere. Those rules related mainly to keep open the courtyards, the height of the buildings in the radial streets and the soundness of the fundaments, on which they held close supervision.

View of the Golden Bend in the Herengracht by Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde (1671-1672) Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
View of the Golden Bend in the Herengracht by Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde (1671-1672) Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

In terms of design and performance it was fairly free to build whatever they wanted. This led to wide and narrow facades, high and low gabels arose on Herengracht, initially even facades of wood! But of course, soon facades of brick and stone prevailed and an endless variation and adaptation to the rich variety of gables which we can be still admired every day. The individuality of the homebuilder led to an urban monument of world class and provides inspiration for the homebuilder now.

*Own land is a big word in Amsterdam, you have the plot on lease from the city.

Palaces for Workers

AMS-museum-het-schipAt the Spaarndammerplantsoen you’ll find three Amsterdam School housing blocks designed by architect Michel de Klerk. The most striking, and well-known block of the three in the complex that he designed last, Het Schip (The Boat). Who goes to this spectacular block will have more associations with a fairy tale than laborers.

Spaarndammerbuurt in Amsterdam West emerged at the end of the nineteenth century and was set up for the workers who worked in the nearby ports. In the beginning it was a shabby neighborhood where landowners earned from poor homes. But after the onset of the Housing Act in 1901 the streetscape changed. With the implementation of this law a special Dutch housing tradition started. In response to the appalling living conditions of the workers a unique collaboration was created between government, corporations and architects, with the aim of achieving the highest possible, affordable quality housing for all.

Masonry and sculpture on Museum Het Schip
Masonry and sculpture on Museum Het Schip

The by Spaarndammerplantsoen, Zaanstraat, Hembrugstraat and Oostzaanstraat enclosed residential complex Het Schip was designed by De Klerk in 1917, commissioned by housing association Eigen Haard (Your Own Place). In addition to the original 102 laborer houses, it also included a school building, a clubhouse and on the side of the Spaarndammerplantsoen, a post office. The latter was an idea of Arie Keppler, director of the Municipal Housing Agency and driving force behind the construction of these housing units. Early twentieth century, the workers received their weekly pay cash in the pub. A portion was immediately squandered. With a post office nearby he hoped the workers would save some more.

Amsterdam School details in the School-house
Amsterdam School details in the School-house

Het Schip may be a spectacular example of how attractive a housing project could be. All features of the Amsterdam School are present here: sculptural, expressive forms of brick, lots of variety of volumes and materials and rich carved decorations. There is a link between mass and individuality. It is a large block of houses, and yet every house has something unique.

On June 12, Museum Het Schip was Amsterdam School Monument of the Month. In recent months they worked hard on the renovation of the museum. Visitors were given on this day a unique opportunity to see this iconic monument in a way that was not previously possible. Parts of the renovated building were for the first time open to the public.

New Energy From The Dike

The building of the former power station at Hoogte Kadijk
The building of the former power station at Hoogte Kadijk

For over a hundred years, the machine building on Hoogte Kadijk houses the first municipal power plant. Once the bastion of direct and alternating currents provided a large part of the electricity needs of the city and the Eastern Docklands. This week the impressive engine room is the central hub during the Week of the Empty Building.

In 1900 the city council decided to set up a power company for ‘lighting and motive power’, a year later they began with the construction of the ‘Central Electricity Station’ at Hoogte Kadijk. The occasion was especially the desire to electrify the (horse)tram (steam)cranes of the Eastern Docklands. The oldest, eastern part of the machine building, dates from 1903 and formed together with a boiler room and a large coal shed at the side of the Entrepotdok the first plant of the Municipal Electricity Works. Special was that it was a double station. In addition to direct currents for tram and cranes they also supplied AC power for small businesses and domestic consumers. The location was chosen favorable, near the Eastern Docklands, but also not too far from downtown. Coals for large boilers could be delivered easily through the water of the Entrepotdok.

Archive photo of the interior of the machine hall
Archive photo of the interior of the machine hall

Soon the demand for power was found to be much larger than they had anticipated in 1903. Therefore, the plant was increased in 1908 where the machine hall at the Hoogte Kadijk was doubled in size to the west and reached its current size. The total floor area was nearly doubled with this expansion, making this complex to become one the largest warehouse complexes in Europe at that time. The difference between the old and the new part is barely visible. Both parts have a sober brick architecture with distinctive large arched windows.

Until 1931, the plant was completely in use for electricity. From 1946 the power production was transferred to other locations and the machines were removed from the building. In 1955 followed the partial demolition of the boiler room and coal shed. The very heavy basement of the coal shed still stands and was used in 2001 as a base for a by Liesbeth van der Pol designed residential building, named Aquartis. The engine house has been preserved and still plays a crucial role in the Amsterdam power supply: the eastern part, and oldest half of the building is used as a switching station in the 150,000 volt installation of 2 electricity companies. They still provide more than half of the city center of power. In the western half of the building, energy museum Energetics opened in 1999 its doors. When the museum ceased to exist in 2007, the hall was used for storage and temporary expo’s. This week several dozen students have to come up with a new feature for this tough industrial monument.

Interior of the former power plant
Interior of the former power plant

From May 19 to 23, 2016, the fourth edition of the Empty Building Week takes place. Students and teachers of different disciplines from all over the Netherlands work in groups to make plans for this vacant building. The Week of the Empty Building started from the need of the Chief Government Architect, the State Real Estate Company and the National Office of Cultural Heritage to encourage stakeholders and interdisciplinary cooperation between architectural courses. The Amsterdam Department of Monuments and Archaeology will contribute as a guest expert and are represented in the final panel.

Amsterdam Marine Base

Amsterdam’s marine base, located in the heart of the Dutch city, started a gradual transition early last year from a dominantly military-only zone to a more public program. One building, ’27E’ was selected as the first to be repurposed solely for civilian use. A former education facility, it was dismantled and stripped to its frame by local architecture studio bureau SLA under direction from the central government real estate agency.

’27E’ is situated just off the water, in the vicinity of the Maritime Museum and the Nemo Science Center; the latter a project of Renzo Piano. Originally constructed in 1962, it is one part of a two structure ensemble connected by a single story base. Bureau SLA’s efforts include a re-organization of layout, introduction of various services and infrastructure, and a new façade. Due to changes, each level has 500 m² or 5381 ft² of net floor space.

The façade consists of large 3.5 by 3.5 meter (11.5 by 11.5 feet) triple glazed windows set within deep bays. More noticeable, are wooden elements on the main face. Made of accoya wood, a closer look will reveal interpretations of the flags of every country in the European Union. Since completion in January 2016, it has been leased by Makerversity, a company that provides space, tools, and cutting-edge facilities for makers, creatives, and member businesses.

 

Somewhere Small

As a prop builder, illustrator and painter in Los Angeles, Jedediah Corwyn Voltz always seems to find himself surrounded by plants and half-finished sculptures. For his latest series of work titled ‘somewhere small’, Voltz has crafted tiny treehouses around succulents and cacti. ‘Building miniatures for stop motion always leaves me with a huge bin of scrap balsa, basswood, and various fabrics,’ Voltz says. ‘I found myself making little fantasy constructions out of that stuff during my downtime, which led to me building some more serious ones in little diorama settings. Last year, I built my first living treehouse and since then, I’ve made almost 25 of them — from tiny watchtowers in secluded forests, to quiet treetop meditation platforms, and giant bustling windmills and waterwheels.’ Visit his site here.