In 2007, as part of an overall renewal plan for the Indian neighbourhood, the municipality of Amsterdam East decided to run-down a structural sound block. The 230 small houses were to be replaced by new housing. This radical operation had to pave the way to transform the bad functioning square into the vivid heart of the Indian neighbourhood. The building was to have an underground parking garage, to be able to lower the parking density at the square and surrounding streets. Rebuilding also brought the opportunity to offer more diversity in housing, such as care-adjusted houses. Furthermore, socio-cultural facilities were added in the plinth to strengthen the central position.
Courtyards, a new habitat for Amsterdam
The apartments are grouped around courtyards. This habitat is derived from Berlin’s (Hackeschen Höfe) courtyards, where residents meet and form a small urban community. All entrances and outdoor spaces of the apartments are orientated towards the courtyards and add to the intimate atmosphere.
The courtyards are reached through four spacious gates. These gates make the courtyards visible to the street and vice versa, connecting instead of rejecting relations. Two of these gates have huge pieces of artwork, made out of a collection of old doors, by designer Piet Hein Eek.
Architecture, inspired on the 19th century
The building almost entirely follows the old building plot and is only set back at the Java Square. This is also emphasised in the architectural expression of the building. Where the building follows the old urban plan the design of the façade is based on continuing the architecture of architect Weisman in the neighbourhood.
The characteristics of his designs are strict rhythms of windows, interrupted by grouped doors, a staircase and raised roof. This is also maintained in the new design. The design of the square building does not follow the old building plot and is thus autonomous. The arcade and tower are oriented towards the square, dominating it by height and monumentality. The slender tower plays an essential role. Because of its shear height it is visible from large parts of the neighbourhood, a striking given for the square and area.
The arcade is a notable urban addition and link between square and building.
Because of the careful architectural elaboration and numerous new functions, the Borneohof is a symbol for reversal in the Indian neighbourhood. It is a large warm building, with many urban functions, where people can feel at home.
Text provided by Peter Geusebroek.