CourtyardRow houseSlab, corridorSlab, gallery-access, skip stopSlab, corridorSlab, double-loaded, skip stop
Hoop Liefde en Fortuin
Rudy Utytenhaak | Amsterdam, The Netherlands | 2002
Image of Hoop Liefd...
North facade along the new park

ProjectHoop Liefde en Fortuin
ArchitectRudy Utytenhaak
CountryThe Netherlands
AddressPanamalaan/Cornelis van Eesterenlaan/Borneolaan
Building TypeCourtyard
Row house
Slab, double-loaded, skip stop
Slab, gallery-access, skip stop
Number of Dwellings369
Date Built2002
Dwelling Types1,2 BR flats; 3-4 BR maisonettes
No. Floors1-11
Section Typeflats/single & double load skip stop
Exterior Finish
Concrete, brick, wood, glass, cement board
Construction TypeRC frame
Ancillary Servicesday care center, elderly hsg. parking 223 spaces

One of the most difficult challenges in the planning of the Eastern Harbour District was the Rietlanden area along the waterfront east of Amsterdam’s Central Station. Named Hoop, Liefde en Fortuin (“Hope, Love and Fortune”) after the three windmills that used to occupy the site, this odd-shaped triangular site was situated at the confluence of 3 major urban grids along the main rail lines serving the eastern side of the city. In addition to the streets passing through this area that serve Borneo, Sporenburg, KNSM and Java islands, and the Oostelijke Handelskade pier along the waterfront, the site was also a crucial traffic intersection with major streets and ramps to vehicular and tram tunnels beneath the IJ that connect to the peripheral highway system and the new communities under construction in eastern Amsterdam. Rietlanden was the last of the Eastern Harbour District projects to be built in the transformation of the Amsterdam eastern docks from industrial/maritime to residential uses between 1989 and 2002. Uytenhaak’s project provides a crucial element that defines the open space of Rietlandenpark while at the same time responding to the colliding alignments of the existing piers. The block organization of the earliest projects to be built in the eastern docklands, on the Abbatoir/Veemark/Entrepot (slaughterhouse, cattle market and customs warehouse) sites by Lafour & Wiljk (1989), F. van Dillen (1987), and Atelier Pro (1991), was continued with Uytenhaak’s three courtyard blocks that are terminated with the long canted wall building that faces the park and is diagonally aligned with the Bornel/Sporenburg axis.

The irregular shape of Rietlandenpark results from the complex infrastructure of roads and access ramps to the Piet Hein Tunnel that divide the site. In addition to the vehicular tunnel that is 4 lanes wide in two separate tunnels, the new No. 26 tramline connecting Central Station with the new eastern communities was located at a lower level to get access to a tunnel beneath the vehicular tunnel. The resulting excavation in the center of the site left a large triangular field along the south edge of the park, a smaller triangular area at the western end of the Sporenburg grid, and a third triangular open area attached to the east end of the Amsteldijk Handelskade quay. Sant en Co was the landscape architect. These open areas are rendered as grass fields that are planted with flowers that bloom at different seasons and a random planting of 200 Italian poplars scattered across the grass areas. The paved area on top of the tunnel is used for sports. The long, stepped slab forms an urban-scaled fence long the south edge of the park. Facing this along the north side of the park, aligned with the Oostelijk Handelskade, a cluster of 9 free standing, stepped, metal clad office and residential towers designed by Hans van Heeswijk and Venhoeven C.S. (2001) stand as counterpoint to the fence, a legion of robotic sentinels watching over the sunken tram station, the fields of flowers and poplars, and, in the distance, the great wall of Uytenhaak.

This group of four buildings are some of the last built in the eastern docklands. Two basic building types are used, a 5- story “u-shaped” courtyard type that extends and aligns with the block organization used earlier in the Entrepot and Veemarkt projects and a long narrow slab that steps in height from 5 floors at the west end to 10 floors at the east end. The slab features a continuous, gridded, canted façade that aligns with the Borneo and Sporenburg grids and appears to levitate above a brick plinth that varies in height from 1-4 floors. Together, these elements form an inhabited urban fence defining the entire south edge of the park. The courtyard blocks are slightly detached from the south side of the slab defining the streets and making a 3-block long brick façade along Borneolaan that suggests Amsterdam residential precedents. The courtyard at the east end of the canted wall is a facility for the elderly and a 7–story block of offices marks the west end. The rest of the apartments in the courtyards are for social housing with ground floor access via deep entrance halls stairs to 3 & 4 bedroom maisonettes that interlock in a complex section that has a large roof terrace. In contrast to the brick walls along Borneolaan the facades on the side streets are clad with a rich combination of materials: various brick types, colors, coursings, and textures, wood battens and siding, and etched glass. The treatment of brick especially, recalls similar Amsterdam School decorative applications and is a virtual leitmotif of many of this architect’s designs.

But the feature that really sets these buildings apart is the enormous long wall of apartments that faces the open space of Reitlandenpark. The courtyard buildings relate to the Entrepot blocks--the same shape, height and alignment—but a bolder move was needed to define the open space of the park. This new wall closes the open sides of the courtyard blocks, is canted on the Borneo-Sporenbug axis, and stretches from Panamalaan on the west to the edge of the Piet Hein tunnel on the east, a distance of about 800 feet. This huge, segmented slab steps in increments from five–stories at the western, to ten floors at the eastern end. The façade facing the park is then covered with a pre-caste concrete grillage that is seemingly unsupported because it is raised above the ground and the dark brick plinth and is canted outward and extends past the ends of the building. It just seems to hover in space, ironically facing north, an enormous, white, layered, transparent screen, textured with black ceramic tiles—the creation of the artist Willem Oorebeek—forming a whimsical urban-scaled, sculptural fence …a wall of dwellings looking out on the chaotic scene below while continuing the diagonal forces of the Borneo axis into the realm of Rietlandenpark. The elevated grid is made of pre-cast concrete while the stepped; walls along the base are made of a dark textured brick with punched openings. The vertical steps reflect the organization of the wall into 7 distinct repeating segments. Like the courtyard blocks, the dwellings in the wall are mostly an interlocking maisonette type adapted to a double-loaded unité type section as well as a skip-stop gallery type and some 1 & 2 bedroom apartments. Most of these dwellings are privately owned, reflecting the Dutch strategy to mix rental and owner-occupied housing and there are 167 privately owned and 202 social housing units, a total of 369 dwellings.

The highly articulated, layered quality of the gridded façade, the extension of the layered screen beyond the ends, the connection between the canted grid and the recessed brick base, and the concatenated complexity of the upper six floors that step with the profile of the grillage are examples of reoccurring themes in Uytenhaak’s work. Previous examples of this kind of layered façade include the street and canal walls at Weesperstraat (1992) and the street façade at Droogbak (1989) now rendered as a glass wall. The zigzag balcony structure on the courtyard side of Rietlanden has its genesis in the garden balconies of both Weesperstraat and Droogbak.

While criticism has been made about the decorative aspects of the rich pallet of materials, details, and techniques, used by Uytenhaak, that they seem artificial, somehow impure, strategies to enrich the very plain modernism that had dominated Dutch housing design since WW II, seem entirely appropriate. The use of very large residential buildings was always an important characteristic of the planning of the eastern docklands. Jo Coenen’s concept for KNSM Island, for example, was to have huge independent blocks lining both sides of the pier, with Coenen’s own circular courtyard building at the end. The decision to develop Borneo and Sporenburg islands as zones of owner-occupied town houses and canal houses necessitated the inclusion of some bigger buildings to maintain a reasonable urban density so big object-like buildings like Fritz van Dongen’s “Whale” and Koen van Velsen’s “Packman” were positioned in the midst of all these little houses seemingly in the absence of any real urban strategy. Uytenhaak’s Wall is certainly another mega building, but it is much more than just another freestanding object, it defines and encloses space, responds to the order of previous adjacent buildings, and organizes the hectic space of Rietlandenpark.

Melet, Ed, The Architectural Detail, NAi, Rotterdam, 2002, pp. 158-171.

Buurman, Marlies, "Rietlanden", Eastern Harbor District Amsterdam, NAi , Rotterdam, 2003, pp. 174-200.

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