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BDG retrofits Amsterdam riverside Brutalist office building

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The 1970s ‘Amsteldok’ has been redeveloped into 19,000m² of workspace for the world’s biggest advertising agency, WPP Group

BDG was commissioned to transform an existing concrete building in Amsterdam into workspace for 1,500 employees of advertising agency WPP Group.

Amsteldok was built in the early 1970s, designed by Dutch architect Hugh Maaskant, and sits on the banks of the Amstel River. It was once Europe’s largest office building. Its façade has been reimagined by developer Vastint to be fully glazed with multiple external terraces.

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BDG’s refurbishment introduces large-scale installations to define new thresholds at every level, creating a series of transitions and breakout spaces. A staircase connects the arrival to the lounge and a perforated tunnel runs from the lobby to social space.

Shared areas occupy 40 per cent of the building’s space with facilities including cafés, restaurants and bars.

Every floorplate is different to give a variety of spaces with most of the existing concrete structure left exposed. A ninth-floor ‘sky-lounge’ gives expansive views out across the city.

The entire building meets BREEAM Very Good standards with an energy rating of class A through the incorporation of rainwater buffering and retention, green roofs, advanced daylight system control, advanced climate system control, energy-efficient daylight control and a thermal storage system.

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Architect’s view 

Located along the banks of the Amstel River in Amsterdam stands the 19,000m² building, now named Amsteldok, which dates from 1973. Originally designed by architect Hugh Maaskant, it was at the time Europe’s largest office building – nicknamed the ‘monkey mountain’ for its large staggered blocks of concrete.

It has been redeveloped and renamed Amsteldok – combining its location on the banks of the Amstel river with ‘dok’, the Dutch metaphor for progressive thinking, connecting and creating – with the aim of revaluing a deeply unpopular building and reintroducing it to the surrounding community. With an envelope that at once feels transparent, and with the existing concrete frame left exposed and untreated, the building acquires an openness and honesty that was previously hidden from sight.

This careful refurbishment provides a level of accommodation that celebrates the best of original thinking from Dutch workplace architecture in 1970s. Before the onset of technology played its part in defining future decades of work, there was a focus on variety, social interaction and a more human-scale environment. Each floorplate is different from the other, and floor-to-ceiling heights vary from celebrating volume and scale on arrival, to moments where the end-user can feel more intimate and comfortable, even within this brutal concrete vessel.

The introduction of large-scale and sculptural installations define new thresholds that signal transition from one element of the spatial programme to another. The single run staircase from arrival to lounge, the perforated tunnel from lobby to social space, each intended to help transform the perspective of the end-user as they adopt new ways of working supported by the built environment around them.

The varied landscape and availability of ‘non-standard’ typologies of workspace is core to the organisational modelling for WPP. As a business that is ever-changing, both strategically and organically, the working environment that supports its’ key objectives needs to be adaptable to change, nimble for reconfiguration, and also flexibility for long-term growth. It is also important that the configuration of spaces, not just the ‘look and feel’ reflect the brand characteristics of being ‘open’ ‘optimistic’ and ‘extraordinary’. From the smallest of details to the largest of spaces, from the inside to the outside, spaces such as the ninth-floor ‘sky-lounge’ with views across the city and external green space become identifiable assets to the company, the building and its ability to retain and attract creative talent.

The surrounding neighbourhood, predominantly a residential area, has been reinvigorated by the occupation of this large building. There is a new buzz to the locale with social groups being formed to establish a programme of activities such as exhibitions, yoga, running clubs, movie nights, to help all build a transformative community, within a truly transformed landmark.

Colin Macgadie, chief creative officer, BDG

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Level 00

Client’s view

I am incredibly proud of the regeneration of Amsteldok into both a fantastic new home for our people and a new creative and social hub for the city. We have an innovative and collaborative culture in Amsterdam, and WPP’s market offering is stronger than ever as we bring our brands together.

Eric Kramer, country manager, WPP Netherlands

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Project data

Start on site 2016
Completion date April 2019
Gross internal floor area 16,103m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 20,606m²
Form of contract or procurement route Closed contract
Construction cost €28 million
Construction cost per m2 €1,358
Architect BDG architecture & design
Client WPP Real Estate
Structural engineer VanRossum
M&E consultant Hoare Lea, Arcadis, BAM
Quantity surveyor Colliers International
BREEAM consultant DGMR
Fire consultant DGMR
Brand identity VBat and Acrylicize
Acoustic consultant Hoare Lea, DGMR
Project manager Colliers International
Main contractor Pennings, BAM
CAD software used Revit, AutoCAD
Annual mains water consumption 2.9m3/occupant
Design life 15 years

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