Overhoeks Kavel L

The Kavel L apartment block contributes a new energy to the Overhoeks neighbourhood in Amsterdam Noord. The striking building forms one of two social housing complexes in this rectilinear ‘campus’ like setting which fronts the IJ harbour opposite Central Station. Within this formal urban plan – which is rather un-Amsterdam – we gave our own interpretation of the set regulations. We opted for a single gesture that both disrupted and complied with the rules: we squeezed the volume in the middle, allowing the building to stagger and curve upwards. In this way, the building fronts all sides with four different facades and four unusual corners.

Kavel L accommodates 135 apartments. Due to the building’s irregular form, the studio apartments all have unique layouts. Centrally positioned at the narrowest section of the building, the entrance passage connects the shared garden and the street. As the building curves inwards, it embraces the garden to create a sense of shelter. A play of lines between the horizontal bands and vertical fins of light green concrete and changing perspectives of the facades enhance the recognisability of Kavel L.

We question convention by turning things upside down and inside out

Our aim was to explore the given rules of the Overhoeks site to create a dynamic complex. The design plays on the compulsory setbacks (specified in the urban plan to minimise the volumes from street level): the squeezed volume allows the building to terrace upwards along the entire height and length of the building, not only the upper floors as per the plan. In this way, the form becomes irregular and eye-catching, creating a distinct identity for Kavel L in the neighbourhood. The open shared garden and high ground floor multipurpose spaces along Docklandsweg add a new liveliness on street level.

Internally, Kavel L has a simple structure. We focused on maximising the quality of space and hence designed the studio apartments as open microlofts. Due to the irregular forms of the individual floors, this means that the apartments are also irregular in plan and hence are all unique.

The clear, distinct architecture is enhanced by the use of a singular facade material: light green concrete, polished on the ends of the horizontal bands and vertical fins. Complementing this are window frames and railings powdercoated in silver gold, adding a warm glow. Subtly curved, the piers create a changing play of light and shadow throughout the day. Moving up the building, the windows become narrower and the piers more dense, enhancing the rhythm of the facades.

About quantity and quality

Amsterdam is expanding rapidly. The amount of housing expected to be built in the coming decades is enormous: 52,500 until 2025. For this reason, densification is the main strategy within the city, with Amsterdam Noord leading the way. Notably, the increase of single-person households means the main focus is on providing studio apartments. Compact living will be comfortable only when there are extensive facilities provided and when they are shared. We believe these shared spaces are necessary to encourage social interaction. With increasing housing density this opens up new opportunities for people to share space – in every segment. Also, if not especially, for social housing, clients and architects have the responsibility to transform a social commission into a characterful place that makes a positive contribution to the city.
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