KCAP is building on Fashion House
Urban densification is experiencing a fresh take in Amsterdam West, where a new neighbourhood is being built on existing buildings. It is a mega-project with extravagant architecture, apartments and public green space. One of the sections will be the OKU House, designed by KCAP for above the Fashion House.
Amsterdam does many things differently to other major cities. Urban renewal is no exception, as demonstrated by current plans for the densification of its legendary fashion district. New developments here are being built on top of and around the existing buildings. The concept drawn up by KCAP Architects & Planners for Koningin Wilhelminaplein Noord (Queen Wilhelmina Square North) is part of the mega-project to redesign the area above the A10 ring road and within walking distance of Lelylaan station. Adding five slender buildings to the three 1960s/70s complexes Berghaus, The Fashion House and Modrôme, it will imbue the entire neighbourhood with new quality of life and create a “district upon a district”, so to speak.
Old site redeveloped
New apartments, public areas and amenities are planned. Altogether, they will triple the area available above ground in the district to almost 90,000 square metres. Besides the urban development planning, KCAP is responsible for the landscape design as well. Another of their projects is the architecture of the new OKU House, which will be built on top of the Fashion House. In a later phase the team will also handle the renovation of the existing building. Refurbishing and expanding the Berghaus will be handled by MVSA Architects.
The overall plan creates 600 new homes in symbiosis with the existing modernist ensemble. Open space accessible by the public connects the building itself with the surrounding parts of the city.
In amongst and on top
Designed for property developer Boelens de Gruyter, the OKU House provides 324 residential units. Of these, 112 are earmarked as social rented apartments. The new construction consists of two buildings: one of these will actually “sit” on top of the Fashion House, while the other will be built on W-shaped columns, floating between the Fashion House and Berghaus.
Garden, plaza & waterfront terraces
Beneath this floating section, the architects have designed lush, green gardens. These are one part of three communal areas above the half-sunken car park. Each has a different character: sheltered gardens partially beneath the OKU House, a lively urban square between the pedestals of the three old office complexes, and the inviting green waterfront with its stepped terraces next to the water.
A continuous paved pathway links all the functions on the ground floor of the building. As the KCAP team explains, the decorative brickwork pays homage to Amsterdam’s traditions and the history of the district, shaped by the World Fashion Centre and its commercial operations. The raised ground level is connected to its surroundings by means of ramps, steps and a new bridge.
Keeping an eye on climate change
The project is climate-adaptive: rainwater is collected on site and stored in specially designed infiltration strips and underground water buffers. More than 60 new mature trees and 2,000 square metres of planting will be added to the existing greenery to provide greater biodiversity and a good microclimate.
The OKU House is a building that stands with its feet on the ground and with its head in the clouds.
The facade of the OKU House is designed by KCAP to reinforce the architects’ underlying idea: “A building that stands with its feet on the ground and with its head in the clouds.” This image is supported by slender panels made of warm, bronze-coloured aluminium, creating a grid that slowly opens towards the top.
The open plinth eases accessibility of the mixed-use programme here. Balconies over the entire longitudinal facade allow the new residents to enjoy the view of the neighbourhood. The housing units on the north side are equipped with sound-insulating ventilation to guarantee acoustic comfort.
KCAP upgrades the district
Underground parking and bicycle stands at ground level are dedicated elements of the concept. Indeed, the OKU House is seen as part of an extensive upgrade of Amsterdam West. KCAP’s densification will respect the past and yet form a connecting link to its surroundings, while lending the fashion district a new quality of life. Construction work on the OKU House is expected to be completed by Dura Vermeer Bouw Midden West in the first quarter of 2024.
This isn’t the only spectacular urban renewal project developed by KCAP, however. The Dutch architects are currently making headlines with the masterplan “Fellenoord / Internationale Knoop XL” for the Eindhoven station quarter as well as a future-based residential area in Singapore. They have also created intriguing plans for the “New Istropolis” in Bratislava on an area spanning approx. 97,000 square metres. Here, an innovative, car-free, mixed-use quarter aims to transform the Trnavské Mýto quarter into a hotspot for art and culture.
Text: Elisabeth Schneyder
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe