Perimeter blockUrban villa
Het Funen
de Architekten Cie, Geurts + Schulze, Claus + Kaan, DKV, Lafour + Wijk, Van Sambeek + van Veen, Dick van Gameren, KuperCompagnons | Amsterdam, Netherlands | 2004
Image of Het Funen
Garden area inside the Kruquiuskade wall

ProjectHet Funen
Architectde Architekten Cie, Geurts + Schulze, Claus + Kaan, DKV, Lafour + Wijk, Van Sambeek + van Veen, Dick van Gameren, KuperCompagnons
Building TypePerimeter block
Urban villa
Number of Dwellings565
Date Built2004
Dwelling Types1-3 BR Flats, maisonettes
No. Floors2-9
Section Typeflats & maisonettes,
Exterior Finish
brick, concrete, tile, glass
Construction Typeconcrete frame, steel frame (Slimline floor system)
Ancillary Services395 parking, 3000 sq. mtrs. office, public park

The rebuilding of the eastern dock district of Amsterdam was mostly complete by about 2000. The Entrepot, Abattoir, Veemkt and Rietlanden sites had been transformed into new residential communities, the conversion of the former shipping docks of KNSM, Borneo-Sporenburg, and Java was complete, and the construction of the IJBurg islands, east of the city was proceeding at a rapid pace. One large site remained at the edge of the inner city area, an old industrial zone at the eastern edge of Oostenburg Island next to the Czaar Peterbuurg neighborhood south-east of Central Station along the Amsterdam-Utrecht railway line. This triangular site backs up to the existing neighborhood on one side, the Nieuwevaart canal along the south side, and a zone of curving elevated railroad tracks on the east side. The canal view to the south of a typical Amsterdam canal scene and the scattered buildings along the adjacent neighborhood did not seem to be too challenging. The elevated railroad tracks along the east side, however, presented a serious design problem. This was a wide curving swath of elevated tracks that passed just a few meters from the edge of the site. In addition to the noise, the elevated position meant that the trains were passing at the 2 or 3th floor of the building. The tracks would dominate any view and the elevated position meant that pedestrian connection to the east at ground level was limited to existing streets tunneling under the tracks.

The program included 565 dwellings in various types and sizes, parking for 395 cars, 3000 square meters of office space, and appropriate public open space. The master planning concept that de Architekten Cie developed combined principles from perimeter block and garden city typologies. The idea was to contain the south and east sides of the site with “ell”-shaped brick slabs, that defined an enclosed park area on the interior of the block. Extreme linear slabs are not new to the Amsterdam building scene and recent examples include the long slab by Tangram, the Dukaat + Zorro project in the De Aker district, 2002 and Rudy Uytenhaak’s nearby Rietlanden block finished the same year. This open space was then to be occupied by 16, free-standing individual “urban villas” that were organized on a discontinuous grid aligned with Cruquiustraat. Cars would be parked in the basement of the perimeter slab so that the landscaped areas on the interior of the block would be entirely for pedestrians. A wider swath of park area would be left between the existing buildings along the west side of the side and the edge of the urban villas. The buildings along the park would adopt both the park and the Cruquiuskade alignments.

The site concept then was expressed as 4 distinct components: “Funenpark”, a shared public open space along the west side of the site; “Het Funen”, the zone of urban villas, “Sporenboog” (curving arc), the slab curving along the east edge, and “Cruquiustkade”, the slab facing the canal along the south side. De Architekten Cie designed the two perimeter slabs, and 9 other architects designed the villas. The garden space on the interior of the block including Funenpark was designed by Bram Breedveld & Martien van Osch of Landlab. The villas follow a fixed grid in plan but vary in design, materials, and height, containing from 10 to 24 dwellings each, There is a reference to a rational order while following the model of free-standing elements in a garden setting The following firms designed the villas: NL Architekten, Erna van Sambeek, Geurst & Schultze, Kuiper Compagnons, Dick van Gameren, DKV Architecten, Lafour + Wijk, and Claus + Kaan. The landscape design concept was to create a continuous mat of landscape between buildings with a meandering pattern of paved walkways rendered in a ziz-zag pattern of walkways that define odd-shaped planters and lawns, and large number of scattered trees. Funenpark is equipped with special play and recreation equipment and courts.

The 6-9 story red brick walls that enclose two sides of the site and the recessed windows, the terracing, and the apartment thresholds and entrance lobbies along the garden are references to Amsterdam block typologies. But a closer look at the façade reveals the range of dwellings types within and are a clue to the use of the Slimline (INFRA +)flooring system used in the construction. With this technology, steel floor joists are combined with a thin concrete slab to create a hollow floor system that is lighter, and has a lower floor-to- floor height that incorporates the mechanical systems. The floor height is expressed on the exterior by the exposed steel edges of the floor. The garden wall of the Sporenboog facade is a very dynamic organization that uses an alternating pattern of full height brick panels or naturally finished wood windows of varied widths that are equipped with balustrades so they also function as balconies. The building terraces back with a wide terrace on top of the ground infill panels. The long linear walls are punctuated with glass entrance lobbies and several communal spaces. Taller sections of the wall mark the ends and the corner intersection of the “L” and the section steps toward the garden with galleries and a terrace level above the ground floor commercial spaces on the garden side of the Cruquiuskade block. The innovative Slimline system was combined with vierendeel trusses to carry the loads of the floors above the Dutch Rail electrical substation that had to be built in the north end of Sporenboog.

Another innovation was the key to the success of the whole project. The perimeter block concept seemed like a good idea if the sound and visual stress of the passing trains could be controlled. To do this, an acoustical glass veneer was developed to control the sound. Alternating wide and narrow strips of glass are applied obliquely to the edge of the floor slab, a few inches outside of the enclosing wall of the building. A special laminated glass designed to deflect sound away from the building is used in this second skin. Colored plastic film in different colors is laminated into the narrow glass strips resulting in an alternating pattern of rainbow colors that can be seen from passing trains. Several inches of air separate the sound zigzag layer from the wall of the apartments and this space can be ventilated by opening the narrow sections of glass. In addition to the second glass veneer there is a system of folding blinds to control the view. The result is a faceted, colored glass wall that mitigates noise and is constantly changing as light is reflected off the curving, crystalline form. High tech glass skins designed to control sound have been used before in Amsterdam (See Droogbaak, Rudy Uytenhaak, 1989. For another example also on a R x R curve that uses careful planning and construction of concrete walls to block sound and vibration, see, Alexandra Road, Neave Brown, London, 1977). Even though advanced glass technology may help limit the transfer of sound through this complex, multi-layered surface, the frequent passage of locomotives only a few meters away from a dwelling, must seem totally at odds with the serene garden city existence on the opposite side of the building. Sooner or later, the laws of physics take over; mass is still better than glass, but this contraption is truly fascinating. Maybe this is really an urban planning problem.

Sun control was the technical issue for the south wall along Cruquiuskade. Again, the continuous exposed steel slab edge but now all the wall panels are glass to maximize the views of the canal and city landscape. The office space on the ground floor is protected with a perpendicular continuous horizontal solar screen mounted above the glass while the apartment floors are protected with full-height aluminum sliding shutters. The domestic ambience associated with brick and natural wood, on the garden walls has given way to aluminum and glass on the street facade.

Teams of architects have designed many of the large Dutch collective housing developments of the past 20 years. Typically a large project is divided into manageable smaller pieces with one office assuming responsibility for the master plan and coordination, while the others are assigned smaller parts. This follows the pattern of the German Werkbund exhibitions of the 1920’s, and the Berlin IBA building exhibition of the late 1980’s. This strategy has the advantage of spreading the opportunities around for several architects but also results in control problems. How do these different architects work towards a unified result without being stifled by collective needs? Het Funen is a clever solution to this problem. Using the perimeter block/urban villa concept De Architekten Cie was assigned the master planner role and the design of the perimeter buildings. A group of 9 other architects assumed the design of the urban villas. The master-planning footprint for the villas was predetermined, but each office had a lot of design freedom. The result is a regular pattern of very different buildings. They vary from 2 to 6 floors, contain between 10 and 24 apartments each, and use a great variety of materials and details. All are entered from the public garden space and all have ground floor dwellings, made possible by the strategy to park the cars under the perimeter block. In some way or other, all are derivative of Garden City notions of collective dwellings ensconced in an idealized natural landscape. The program required that 50% of the roof was terraced. The villas are seen dominantly from the upper levels of the perimeter block, so the landscaped roofs and terraces and walls of some of the buildings read as sculptural objects in the garden. The landscape design assumed a critical role in this process because it became the catalyst that bonded together this collection of interesting but idiosyncratic elements.

Of course, the beauty of removing the cars from the pedestrian spaces is that landscape takes over as the dominant spatial experience of living here. The big walls shield the perimeter, and the garden is reserved for pedestrians, cyclists, and the terraces and gardens of individual residents. While the use of steel gates certainly helps make the garden a secure enclave, all of these buildings have ground floor dwellings, many of which have thresholds at the edge of public walkways and a subsequent loss of privacy and security. The presence of graffiti on the Sporenboog walls suggests something less than the benign neighborhood envisaged by Garden City metaphors. The great advantage of the perimeter block as an urban typology , is precisely because it so clearly defines public and private realms, a condition that can only be created with a system of secure gates in the modern milieu of buildings free-standing in a park. The quiet garden world would have been impossible without remote parking, but the garden dwellings can be a long walk from the car.

Architecture in the Netherlands Yearbook, 2009/10, 010, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam, 2010, pp. 128-131.

Buurman, Marlies, Maarten Kloos (ed), Amsterdam Architecture, 2003-2006, ARCAMPocket/Architectura & Natura Press, Amsterdam, 2007, pp. 146-51

Groenendijk, Paul, & Piet Vollaard, Architectuurgids Nederland: 1980-nn, 010 Publishers, Rotterdam, 2009, pp. 46-51.

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