July 25, 2007

Amsterdam 1 (Netherlands)

Amsterdam... a city center laid out like a spider web, with more canals than Venice, Italy. This 'water' city life seemed well-hydrated and healthy... most people were walking or biking to get around. Because of its slower pace and segmented street scape, it created the opportunity to be lost and discover unexpected shops, parks, cafes and beautiful views.

We settled here for 8 days, the longest period staying in one place for the entire trip. We rented a studio apartment instead of sleeping at a hotel, to help escape the feel of being a tourist all the time. (If anyone's looking, City Mundo
is great source to find such an accommodation at a budget price).

Our apartment was located in the neighborhood of de pijp, just a block away from the Albert Culyp market where over 300 vendors have set-up their shop every day since 1904. You have to try the pickled herring when you go there, a real treat if you can handle raw fish.

Our first stop was Zuiderkerk
, the first church ever built in Amsterdam. The space is utilized as an exhibit space / information desk, where you can find valuable information on current architecture/neighborhood developments in Amsterdam. The people there were really helpful with looking up addresses for projects... one gentleman even gave us his reference copy of a book on projects in the area, joking with us that we could photocopy the plans and use them when we return home.

A half-hour walk brought us to Arcam
, Architectuurcentrum Amsterdam, designed by Rene van Zuuk. The thumb-looking building consists of three stories, clad with silver-colored Kalzip, which has been folded over the roof, right down to the ground. The sculptural form reveals interesting detail and shadow on all sides. Inside, voids and openings connect all rooms to each-other, keeping the interior feeling very open. This institute has published numerous pocket architecture guides, and their site has a well-organized information about architecture in the area.

From here, we walked to Nemo, (not to be confused with Pixar's fish) a ship-looking science center designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. We decided against going inside after seeing long lines and mounds of kids jumping and screaming on the roof terrace... though the views of the city from the roof terrace were great.

A bridge away from Nemo, we happened to come across a brand new central Library, Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA) designed by Jo Coenen, which just opened on 07-07-2007. A somewhat classic approach in terms of material selection, stone tiles clad a cube box, carved away at the center and open through all the way to the top terrace overhang. The insert of a rotated wood box was more reminiscent of an office building from the exterior. However, upon entering the building, the bold Dutch finishes kicked-in, offering a varied experience to the senses; from a felt textured wall in the foyer, to illuminated white escalators, playful "jacks" light fixtures in a high volumed reading room space, and fluid, free-formed furniture, bookshelves and seating selections. They all had a playful and inviting feel. This sensitivity to the environment recalled our home town Seattle Public Library designed by OMA.

From there we decided to take a rather long walk along the pier development to see Silodam
, a housing complex by MVRDV in 2002. This building takes a appearance of stacked shipping containers reflecting the harbor neighborhood, with a graphic color layout identifying "mini-neighborhoods" of apartments, offices, and public spaces combined in a ten-story-tall rectangular block envelope. They have successfully provided not only a sense of uniqueness by giving variety in color and layout for each section of the block, but they have constructed the complex to allow future relocation of interior walls per the user's need. They additionally have created shared spaces, void, terraces, etc. to reinforce the neighbor hood experience within the given perimeter.

Last but not least, we made a stop at droog design
, the dutch design collective who has been generating some of the most innovative and inspirational furniture and design installations in recent years. They also started the Design Academy Eindhoven where many talented designers come out each year to display their works. They were featuring academy students work from the master's program, 'conceptual design in context."

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