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Monday, September 22, 2008


Kraanspoor in Amsterdam, Netherlands by Ontwerpgroep Trude Hooykaas

In many first-world countries industrial waterfront have been morphing into desirable locations for parks, residences, office, and other functions stemming from the rise in service-based "industries" and the decline or relocation of manufacturing, shipping, and other "heavy" industries. Concerns about the questionable nature of such tactics in political, economic, and social terms are typically tossed aside, in favor of a focus on quality of life and environment issues. As noise and pollution give way to quiet, cleanliness, and green space, the potential for outstanding architectural interventions also increases, especially when the architecture confronts the industrial past in immediate ways.

The new home for the growing architecture and interiors firm Ontwerpgroep Trude Hooykaas (OTH) in Amsterdam North is a fine example of such an intervention. Dubbed Kraanspoor -- literally "craneway" -- the building is a three-story addition over the long and linear concrete structure with one long side on water, the other on land. The addition respects the former shipyard structure by duplicating its 270-meter (885-foot) length. In the other direction the "glass cap" cantilevers beyond the narrow frame to garner the space needed to function as offices.

By following the remaining industrial artifact, the design accomplishes two main things: it establishes a subsidiary relationship of new to old, with the old determining the new building's form; and it uses the existing to its advantage, both in reusing the structure and in its use of the water below for cooling and radiant heating. Most striking, of course, is the appearance of the glass building hovering above the concrete frame and water below, its lightness offset by its platonic form.

A major part of the building's appearance is its double facade. Glass louvers sit in front of a wood-frame glass wall, whose surface includes a dot pattern to reduce the glare of the sun off the water. Additionally the outer layer is motorized to aid in the occupants regulating the environment for comfort. In regards to this last concern the building's form is particularly important, as the narrow floor plates allow for cross ventilation, an important element when possible, which many urban conditions preclude due to neighboring buildings in dense conditions. This points to another advantage of transforming industrial waterfronts (beyond those mentioned in the first paragraph): the ability to create buildings with minimal ecological footprints.

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