The urban study for the future development of Westerdokseiland was commissioned by the Projectgroep Zuidelijke Ij-Ooever, a group established by the Amsterdam Municipality to deal with the Ij-riverbank redevelopment project. The aim of the Ij-Ooever project is to reinvent the historic and industrial dock areas as new city-oriented living and working areas. Although Amsterdam is situated along the Ij-river, historically the main entrance route to the city and the harbour, the relationship between the city and the water has eroded over the last two centuries. The eastern parts of the Ij-river projects - knsm-eiland, Java eiland and Borneo Sporenburg - were the first to be masterplanned and are nearing completion. They successfully establish a water-related city-extension. For the Westerdokseiland, a site much closer to the city centre, the task was to develop an urban identity that would reflect the island's particular location: closely linked to the finely scaled fabric of the inner-city canal structure on the one hand, and on the other to be part of the wider, large scaled Ij- riverfront.
The project deals with a high-density, mixed-function building programme in an urban environment, providing 130,000m2 of floor surface, 900 residential units, 150 working units and 900 built parking spaces. Important requirements were flexibility in use with interchangeable living and working facilities in buildings that are able to adapt to future unknowns, and have a similar durability to the historic architecture of the Amsterdam canals.
An important issue belonging to the idea of adaptability is the notion of 'address' that is an interaction between architecture and public space. A street-related architecture is proposed as part of this concept with entrances directly connected to the public realm. No semi-public or semi- private space is provided. The facades of the buildings act as a mask and a formal border between private and public. They do not express or suggest a specific use.
A maximum length of street-related facade is introduced through a number of strips separated by narrow streets. Each strip forms an urban unit that is flexible in width, height and number. A strip consists of three different parts; two end blocks, one facing the Westerdok- harbour inlet, the other facing the Ij-river, and a third lower element in the middle area between the edge blocks.
The facades on the Westerdok harbour form a transparent elevation with the windows having a vertical emphasis, suggesting a continuation of the tall and finely-scaled typology of the inner-city townhouses. The facades on the Ij-river are more closed and of a larger scale;responding to the context of the river with horizontal windows which have a panoramic quality. The houses in the middle of the strip are low and informal. They have internal courtyards to bring light in and rooftop gardens.
Client: Project Bureau Ij-Oovers, Municipality of Amsterdam