Slab, point-accessSlab, corridorSlab, gallery-access, skip stopTower
MVRDV (Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs, Nathalie de Vries) | Amsterdam, Netherlands | 2007
Image of Parkrand
East (park) facade

ArchitectMVRDV (Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs, Nathalie de Vries)
AddressDr. H. Colijnstraat,260 (Gruzenvald)
Building TypeSlab, gallery-access, skip stop
Slab, point-access
Number of Dwellings223
Date Built2007
Dwelling Types1,2,3,& 4 BR flats; 3 BR. maisonettes
No. Floors12
Section Typeflats, maisonettes
Exterior Finish
precast concrete cladding, aluminum windows, glass, glazed brick
Construction TypeRC walls and cores, steel trusses (bridges), masonry walls
Ancillary Services1 floor, basement parking, offices

The garden communities that were built in the Geuzenveld-Slotermeer suburbs of western Amsterdam in the 1950’s and 1960’s were typically neighborhoods of small houses or minimalist 4-story slabs. The challenge for planners in recent years was how to maintain the garden city qualities of these communities while building better dwellings at increased densities. Parkrand (“park edge”), because of its location overlooking Eendrachts park, one of the major parks of western Amsterdam, is an example of the new housing being built in this part of the city. Three, ell-shaped, 4-story zeilenbau from the 1950’s were replaced with a giant free-standing block, 12 floors high, 34 meters wide and 134 meters long containing 224 apartments or about twice the number in the existing buildings. The new building helps define the edge of the park but also occupies less area so that the area of the park has increased and a much more formal relationship created between the building and the landscaped open space to the west. The building sets back along the sides and front forming a large paved area along the street that is used for parking and the entrance to the building at this floor.

The first impression is that of an enormous, rusticated, anthracite-colored rectangular block that is extensively glazed with infill windows and glass balconies on the sides. Huge 8 story-high rectangular openings cut in the sides of this block reveal a three dimensional spatial matrix on the interior that is rendered in white glazed brick and repetitive full height windows. The big cutouts reveal a solid-void organization of individual towers on the interior that stand on a two-story plinth of dwellings and support a two-story cornice of repetitive maisonettes. A certain ambiguity results from combining the two ideas: is the driving concept one of connected towers or is it one of an eroded volume? This ambiguity is also evident in the plans. The bottom two floors and the top two floors are organized around two long rectangular voids that make an entrance court at the first floor, and provide day lighting from the top. The 8 floors in between are organized as 5 freestanding rectangular towers, each with a service core and each entered from the courtyards at the first floor. At the top two floors the towers are connected to each other with bridges that have continuous galleries connecting the tower cores as a two-story high zone of maisonettes. Entrance is made at the second floor from the parking area in front of the building. This is one-half floor above the level of the park on top of a level of basement parking. This gives access to the tower lobbies and includes a zone of dwellings that align with the bridges of the top floors. The roof of this zone of dwellings (the top of the plinth) is used for three, semi public roof gardens. Designed by Richard Hutten, the three “rooms” define partially covered outdoor spaces within the building volume that overlook the park and other spaces around the building and are enclosed with a glass fence. The terraces are equipped with giant vases that are tree planters, hanging chandeliers, tables and soft furniture in the Dining Room” and the “Living Room”, and an artificial lawn, slides, free-standing animal lights and other objects in the “Children’s Room. This ensemble of garden equipment is illuminated at night and during the day when the white tile walls bounce light around the interior of the block. Perhaps more lyrical than practical the roof terraces instill emotions about garden traditions consistent with the idea of a manor house facing a park.

The white glazed tile used in the inner walls are textured and patterned like wallpaper to diffuse and reflect the light while creating a highly illuminated realm in the interior volumes of the cube. These big interior voids also function as urban windows allowing light to penetrate to the interior framing vistas of the surrounding landscape both from with and without Parkrand.

The primary structure is concrete walls and floors. Steel trusses are used for the bridging of the top two floors. At first glance, the infill frame system used on the exterior seems to express a repetitive structural grid with alternating bays cantilevered to form balconies. On closer examination, however, there are several different bay widths the result of a rather complex mix of dwelling types and dimensions. Every dwelling has an ample, cantilevered balcony with glass balustrades and floor-to-ceiling aluminum windows. The windows are recessed in the frame and equipped with tempered glass balustrades to match the balcony balustrades. The cladding material is very rough, textured, anthracite-colored pre-cast concrete panels, that when coupled with the exposed concrete of the balconies produces a very striking, repetitive almost rusticated surface texture that accentuates the massiveness of the building. The walls on the interior of the block are equally striking, shiny, textured, and patterned glazed white brick, organized in a repetitive composition of full height white aluminum and door and window frames with integral balustrades. These walls are decorated with large-scale patterns and signage designed by the graphic design firm Thonik.

Following a recent trend in Dutch housing, Parkrand contains a wide variety of apartment types and sizes including a range of flats and even large maisonettes. As the social housing of the 1950’s and 60’s has been replaced with housing for a more affluent class, the quality and especially the size of market dwellings also changed. Different dwelling types in Parkrand result from the different building configurations that include the point-access tower type organization of the middle floors and the two floors at the top resulting from the bridge idea. In the typical tower, 3-4 dwellings are grouped around the elevator core but organized so that every living room has a balcony on the exterior boundary. The top two floors are organized around a continuous gallery at the 10th floor that connects to the tower lobbies but also serves the maisonettes in the top two floors. Other apartments have access from the lower courtyards including long narrow dwellings that is open at each end. In all cases, every dwelling has an exterior balcony that is above ground level.

In contrast to the minimal social housing that was built in this part of the Geuzenveld-Slotermeer district after WWII, the new projects reflect a different attitude about landscape and urban scale and about dwelling size and quality. Parkland is the third in a series of very large rectangular slab blocks built by MVRDV in the past few years. The first of these, Silodam built in Rotterdam in 2003, is a “unite”-proportioned block, at the edge of the water in this case, with a complex mix of dwelling types and a semi-public outdoor space on the water as opposed to a position within the building. By comparison with Le Corbusier’s unite d’habitation in Marseilles, Silodam is about one half as big with 157 apartments and at 10 floors is much smaller and shorter, however, it too has a mix of apartment types and sizes, a roof terrace, and a more-or-less free-standing siting. The 22-floor height of the Mirador, completed in Madrid in 2005, matches the 20 story height of the Marseilles block but has only 165 dwellings compared to the unité’s 350. The large terrace deck within Mirador, an idea developed conceptually by tilting up a typical Madrid perimeter block so that the court on the interior of the block occurs as a void in the in the surface of the building. This “community garden” is similar to the outdoor rooms at Parkrand. The idea of the “sky court” has been around for some time, however, probably first occurring in Miami in Arquitectonica’s Atlantis slab of 1982, another mid-building cut-out in a large slab, this time 20 floors, but only 96 dwellings. The genealogy of these examples is probably less important than the basic strategy to replace the zeilenbau formations of much Dutch Post-WWII housing with models of “Ville Radieuse” single, freestanding building types. The metaphor of the country estate that is used to describe Parkland is an interesting idea and certainly the buildings that occupied the site previously did not do much with the park, but is the new building, set back from the street and equipped with urban windows that somehow frame the landscape or the existing community to the east—if the viewer happens to be in the right elevated position-- really that much better and how will future buildings be able to relate to Parkland?

Architecture In The Netherlands, 2007/08, UAi Publishers, pp. 70-73.

AV Monographs, #126, 2007, pp. 74-81

Maarten Kloos, Yvonne de Korte (eds), Arcam/Architectura + Natura Press, Amsterdam, 2008, p. 134-7,Amsterdam Architecture 2006-2008,

Christoph Grate,

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