The apartment building consists of 100 units designed for persons over 50 years of age situated in the west of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The apartments are to offer a higher degree of independence than is usual in homes for the elderly, and could in the future also accommodate younger residents. The design of the building was evolved around the existing local regulations, yet giving itself a striking presence in the street.
The building is located in a city context where green spaces are threatened with increasing occupation density. It is in such a context that conservation of ground floor open and green spaces becomes the challenge for designated density to be achieved.
The building design evolved around the current zoning envelope and the north-south orientation of the building which allows 87 of the 100 apartment units to be built in a single block.
The remaining 13 units are therefore suspended from the north facade of the block to minimize the coverage of the ground floor space and to receives sunlight on its east or west facade. The suspension strategy of some apartment units renders the building with a design resolution uniquely of its own.
This built project case study illustrates the architect’s valuable design thinking within the framework of local restrictions. Firstly the local regulations do not permit to build north-facing apartments. The alternative strategy of east-west orientation is certainly not beneficial in terms of solar heat gain and the shape of the building site. The resultant site planning strategy is therefore a north-south oriented, single-loaded corridor building block. Each apartment units are south-facing and accessed from the corridor on the north.
On the other hand, the modular approach of apartment units is a standard yet straight forward solution to the mid-rise or high-rise housing project. The standardization of apartment units is achieved while the monolithic volumes appears being dissolved. The character of the building whether it being seen from the street or from a far distance has surfaced from the timber-clad suspension units. These units become the focus of the building while bringing the scale down to a more domestic one. It is therefore a balance between standardization and customization in which economic efficiency and urban quality are integrated. Although one might argue the trade off of economic efficiency, such a trade off can only be considered valid numerically if the quality of the environment, including visual excitement and building coverage, is not at all a determinant factor. Integrated approach of quality and efficiency is the only value added resolution towards all the construction aspects. Contribution to street character
All in all, the simple strategy of modular apartment units is value added with the suspension timber-clad boxes which not only render the development compliant with the local regulations but also dissolve the monolithic scale and add character to the building. The value of the design solution contribute further onto the streetscape with its distinctive form and character while establish once again a relationship between building and street. It is all these values that justified the balance between standardization and customization. Conclusion
Standardization and customization appear to be the two major elements depicted side by side through the single building block and the suspension units. The design however is evolved around the intention to design for people and contribute to the surroundings. The suspension units not only define outdoor spaces but also bring the monolithic scale down to the domestic level. The building also successes in establishing a relationship between the building and the streetscape. When these intangible values are considered as appropriate and important, it is not hard to justify a certain level of customization while design varieties will not be limited to facade color or shapes of bay windows.