AMSTERDAM (NL) - Amsterdam's Westelijke Tuinsteden (western garden suburbs), a 1950s and '60s urban expansion scheme, have been undergoing a drastic makeover for some years now. Demolition, renovation and new construction are being deployed in an effort to upgrade the various neighbourhoods so as to attract a more varied population. One of these neighbourhoods is the Delflandpleinbuurt, a mere fifteen-minute bike ride from the centre of Amsterdam. Several large housing blocks and various amenities will be built here in the coming years. The public space will be spruced up as well, and there will be courtyards and private gardens, while underground car parks will reduce the number of cars cluttering up the streetscape.
The first new housing block, on the north side of the main square, was designed by Dick van Gameren architecten, whose brief was to achieve maximum density to kick-start the rejuvenation of the neighbourhood. The result is a mix of 170 rental dwellings of various sizes, a daytime activity centre and retail units. The U-shaped block encloses a ground floor car park on top of which is a communal garden. The apartments are already occupied by a mix of families, elderly people and newcomers to the housing market.
Because of the noise of the nearby motorway, a largely closed elevation was required. The architects responded by designing two-storey-high prefab panels, which are used to cover the entire facade in a rich mosaic of earth tones. From close up it can be seen that the prefab panels are inlaid with bricks, which from a distance give the building a distinctive patchwork appearance. The architects employed a variety of brickwork patterns, colours and brick sizes, and even varied the proportions of brick to joint. According to the architects, the panels refer to the typical brick prefabrication of the original garden suburbs, but at the same time break with the monotonous, repetitive image of the traditional prefab facade. (Hannah Schubert)