Amsterdam is currently undergoing a post-industrial renewal. So it should be of no surprise using an older building to make a new one. But a crane track? Trude Hooykaas discovered this huge concrete structure at one of her bicycle rides along northern Amsterdam, when she was searching for a place to make the new headquarters for her company. The area used to be a shipyard, abandoned, but with all the signs of its former industrial glory present. It was easy for her to imagine a huge transparent box sitting on top of the track, floating above the sea.
Using the four original stairwells as entrances, with new staircases and panoramic glass lifts was another master stroke, as well as using the old concrete catwalks as fire escapes: the former crane track was not only serving as support, it became really alive as well, fitting perfectly in with the new use. The glass box hangs asymmetrically over one side towards the water, making the feeling of floating above the waters even more intense.
The new building is raised three meters from the concrete skeleton of the track, supported by slender steel columns, seemingly fragile and hovering like a space ship, effect even more punctuated at night, when it is illuminated. The vision of it against a sunset making the waters look golden while sun drifts towards the waves must be thrilling.
The concrete wharf is 270 m in length ("270m of concrete silence" as said by Trude Hooykaas), 13.5 m high and 8.5 m. deep. It was built in 1952 and had two huge cranes until 1999, when they were dismantled. The restoration started in 1997: the building begun in 2006 and was completed in November 2007. The architect's vision of "a dawning sun on the banks of a golden coast", is finally realised, and it is shared with the people working there or visiting this unique building.
Originally posted at 2Modern Talk on July 5th 2008