New West is a mixed-use development in Amsterdam Nieuw-West with 80 housing and 11 commercial units and an underground parking garage. The building is the result of a municipal tender process aimed at diversifying the local population and ‘improving social coherence’, based on a fixed, size-related ground price and a loose-fit cubic building envelope of approximately 42 meters edge length. The project is part of the urban redevelopment and densification of the Overtoomse Veld, a zone in the former ‘Western Garden Cities’ and as such part of Cornelis Van Eesteren’s paradigmatic ‘General Extension Plan’ (AUP, 1934), exemplifying the Modernist principles of urban planning. Since the 1990’s, the area has become increasingly populated by Moroccan immigrants.
The volumetric organization consists of an urban plinth above which three housing blocks frame a central collective space, emphasize the building’s urban orientation onto the adjacent boulevard, and allow for spatial continuity and visual see-troughs with the existing context that corresponds with its Modernist legacy.
Around half of the dwelling units are conceived as generic, double-height casco apartments, two-thirds have custom-designed and -built layouts in collaboration with the future residents, and one-third consists of rental units. The apartment sizes are based on an axis width of 6.70 m, an average apartment footprint of 65 m2, and vary between 45 and 180 m2. Technical shafts are positioned in order to allow for a wide range of apartment layouts. The double-height apartments have two cross-directional built-in steel beams as structural basis for various mezzanine floor forms.
Most of the apartments are reached by galleries encircling the central collective courtyard. The transitions between private domesticity, communal zones, and public realm are richly differentiated in spatial form and scale, from the gallery balconies coupled with two apartment entrance doors to the three gallery platforms with distinctive vegetation, including one for communal urban farming, to the courtyard water retention garden above the plinth, and to the sunken atrium related to the building’s main entrance.
The all-side oriented, nearly 6 m high plinth is programmed to contribute to the social climate of the neighborhood. It houses a coffee lounge business with social commitment, a branch of the Amsterdam city library, a kindergarten, and a non-profit art space addressing the encounter between Western and North-African cultures and resulting from close collaboration between the architects, a group of artists and curators, the developer, and the municipality.
The architectural expression of New West mediates between the many individual (dwelling) units at its exterior, articulated by a generous and plastic grid of prefab concrete panels, in its alteration of rhythms playfully referring to the location’s Modernist identity, and the singular central collective room, a micro- landscape and –climate framed by colored, reflecting glass panels, reminiscent of the location’s pre-Modernist history as small-scale polderlandschap just two generations ago.
Completion is expected in January 2020.