Kinderstad / Sponge Architects & Rupali Gupta + IOU Architecture

Architects: Sponge Architects & Rupali Gupta in cooperation with IOU Architecture
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Client: Ronald McDonald VU-Kinderstad
Area: 1000sqm
Construction start: May 2006
Completion: February 2008
Building contractor: BAM Utiliteitsbouw, Amsterdam
Structural Engineer: DHV, Rotterdam
Installations: Kropman, Utrecht
Photos: Kees Hummel

Background Information

The project “Kinderstad” (Dutch for “children’s city”) emanated from the Young Architects Competition of the Dutch National Board of Architects (BNA) together with the Ronald McDonald Children’s Foundation (Kinderfonds) in 2003. SPONGE ARCHITECTS & Rupali Gupta in cooperation with IOU ARCHITECTURE (Björn van Rheenen, Rupali Gupta and Roland Pouw) won the first prize and received at the same time the appointment to realize the winning design for both the exterior and interior work including the management of the project. “Kinderstad” is the first project among the projects presented to the BNA Young Architects Competition that has actually been realized and implemented. The similarity between the result and the competition design is striking. During the process of the implementation almost all ideas and designs have been adopted.
The goal of “Kinderstad” is to extract the sick child, its family and friends from the unpleasant surrounding of a hospital and to enable an encounter in a much better atmosphere. This new specialised type of health care for sick children gives the visitors the chance to forget for a moment that the child is sick and to facilitate the normal development of the young patients (between 4 and 18 years old) despite the treatments; it has a positive influence on the patients’ recovery. “Kinderstad” is attached to the children’s ward on the 9th floor in the eastern wing of the of Amsterdam Free University (VU Amsterdam).

The Exterior

“Kinderstad” is situated on the roof of the eastern wing of the Medical Centre of Amsterdam Free University (VU Amsterdam). The 9th and 10th floors compose an adornment made of glass and titanium. The 9th floor stands back from the existing brick-lined building of the eastern wing and from the 10th floor. Due to this gap and the overhanging of the 10th floor, one gets the impression that “Kinderstad” is hovering like a cloud above the hospital. At the same time the use of glass and titanium sets a visual contrast between the seemingly light superstructure and the heavy brick-lined fundament. The facade consists for the most part of glass.
For some parts, the facade is closed with titanium behind the glass. Special tiles of three different kinds of titanium have been produced for this project; it’s the first time it has been used in (baked with crystals, 15x15cm). The tiling has been assembled in different angles of inclination on the facade and under the exterior ceiling with the effect of reflecting the light in different colours for each moment of the day. In combination with the reflection of the glass in front of the tiling it creates a fascinating effect with the light, the surroundings and the building. It becomes absorbed in its natural environment: the constantly changing Dutch skies.
The titanium creates a layer of protection against corrosion. This layer makes sure that scratches or light damages repair themselves and that the material does not develop patina like other metals. As a result the titanium is reflecting the light permanently, unlike other metals. With their playful prints of natural materials the boxes in the facade that stretch from the inside of the building through the glass facade to the outside give an impression of the thematic design of the interior and wear away the border between interior and exterior. The combination of the strict lines, the richness of the 20.000 titanium tiles and the colorful boxes that stick out gives the facade a playful look while establishing a contrast to the rather uninspired facades of the surrounding office buildings.

The project was nominated for the architectural facade competition “Architectuurprijs GevelTotaal 2008″. From the jury’s report: “The titanium tiles have been used in a clever way that underlines how exciting the irregularity of the material is. Glass and titanium are giving fascinating reflections. Beautiful details.”

The Interior

The concept invites one to linger in the open space of the widespread playground. On the playground one can find different calm rooms with different specific atmospheres and functions. The concept plays with the contrast of openness and closeness, of encounter and withdrawal.
The basic idea of the concept of “Kinderstad” is to get the children in contact with the outside, with nature. This idea was realized by the use of natural materials (wood, stone and photo prints), a completely open facade and big roof windows that allow natural light to come in while giving the impression that 35m above you the sky and the weather are within your grasp. Every detail of the design is connected to this concept in a very consequent way. “Kinderstad” is really a little city with a big playground, little houses, streets, alleys and streetlights.
The big central staircase made of wood connects the two levels fluently and can be used as theatre stage or movie theatre. Several rooms, different in size and atmosphere, are located as boxes in the open space. These boxes are covered with enlarged printed motives of nature (moss, tree trunks, honeycombs, water drops and rocks) and stick through the facade as to wear away the border between interior and exterior. The boxes are covered with prints of these materials as the use of real natural material was not possible for reasons of hygiene.
The floor, ceiling and a big wall of “Kinderstad” are covered with wood. The ceiling on the 10th floor is a special ceiling for heating and cooling, made of plates of steal that are painted in the style of wood. On the 9th floor, the neighboring strips of the roof and an outside terrace are covered with artificial grass.
The border between interior and exterior, and the references to nature through material, light and a phenomenal view of the sky, the city of Amsterdam and the forest, convey the sensation of “being out and about”.

The interior has been designed partly by the architects and partly by students of the Rietveld Academy or sponsors, under supervision of the architects. There is a lot to discover and experience in “Kinderstad”:
An 8-meter long tunnel serves as the entrance. This tunnel forms the crossing from the hospital to the imaginary world of “Kinderstad”. The shape of the tunnel changes its profile from rectangular to round. The LED lighting behind the semi-transparent plastic allows the creation of different atmospheres corresponding to the four seasons of the year. Furthermore, one can find a theatre, a DJ workstation with disco music by Radio 538 and a TV workstation of Endemol. From the Schiphol airport tower with parts of a rebuilt airplane with seats and cockpit you have a view till the airport and you can follow the landing of airplanes with real sound effects. The child can also dress up as a pilot or stewardess.
Next to it, a little football field sponsored by Ajax is to be found, with artificial grass, white lines and goals, looking out on the Amsterdam Arena football stadium. Here, the children can watch live football training sessions and games on a big screen, admire shirts and trophies and play tabletop football.
A bit further down one encounters one half of a racecar by Spyker with a big screen instead of the front window. In this car, the visitor can participate in a virtual race overlooking the real highway next to the “Kinderstad”.
In the KPN Wizzkids Corner, the children can use the internet, play virtual games and watch little movies. There is also a reader’s corner where they can read books in a calm atmosphere. Finally, there is a slide, which the children can use to slide down from the 10th to the 9th floor.

Last but not least, there is a living room area with a calm atmosphere for the parents who want to catch their breath for a moment.

Healing Environment

Extensive day light, views, contact and association with nature, natural materials, game and relaxation are important elements to positively influence the process of recovery of a sick child. The attention of the visitor is channeled away from the hospital towards the exterior; the sickness gets left behind and is forgotten. Even the needs of children in wheelchairs and beds have been implemented in this concept: they are able to use all the facilities.

Cite: "Kinderstad / Sponge Architects & Rupali Gupta + IOU Architecture" 02 May 2008. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 Apr 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=189>

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