On March 8th, the urban transformation strategy Fasten Your City Belt, designed by Haiko Cornelissen Architecten, will be exhibited and published by the Netherlands Architectural Institute (NAi) in Rotterdam, Netherlands. To show how the transforming strategy works, the architects chose the Amstel III office district in Amsterdam for the Europan 11 competition – one of the most prestigious and renowned competitions for young European architects. Based on their research, they found the most important factor for creating lively cities is the density of people, buildings and program. More images and architects’ description after the break.
As an example of how lifeless office districts can be transformed into lively neighborhoods, Fasten Your City Belt shines a spotlight on a troublesome urban post-war phenomenon on the current economic condition; the mono-functional office district. Cities around the world are plagued with mono-functional ideas but the recent economic recession shows that the office district is especially troublesome.
Typically, office districts become lifeless only after office hours. However, with global office vacancy rates at the highest level in two decades, mono-functional office areas have become permanent dead zones. Vacant offices surrounded by vacant parking lots have no other programs to hide these flaws, and become no-go zones in cities around theworld. Fasten Your City Belt transforms no-go office districts into lively and diversified neighborhoods.
Because Amsterdam has a steady demand of residences for the niche market, apartment buildings with accompanying program (supermarkets, daycare, restaurant, etc. have been introduced. Also, the existing spatial organization needs to be transformed to accommodate the increased density. Thanks to the over-sized infrastructure, the perimeter of each plot can be used to introduce new program in belts around the plot. These belts are transformed in response to local conditions: pushed up to create an entrance, pushed down or in to create more space and light for the existing buildings, or twisted to create space for the parking entrance below. Parking spaces are moved underground to make room for semi-private gardens, and office lobbies are moved up to solve the office vacancy by allowing new program to move in on the ground level.
It is essential that plot owners are given incentives to collaborate in a private-public effort to transform the area. Reducing the over-sized infrastructure allows the local government to increase the plot size of the owner in exchange for redeveloping the plot. The resulting increase of building area and spatial quality increases the value of the plot and therefore the incentives even further.