AMSTERDAM – Benthem Crouwel Architects’ creation of the ‘slow traffic corridor’ that connects the city of Amsterdam to the waters of the IJ also conjures a visually historic connection. The Cuyperspassage is a 110-m tunnel that runs under Amsterdam Central Station, offering a connection from the front to the rear of the building for cyclists and pedestrians alike. With a vast portfolio of work throughout the city – including the master planning of the station itself – it was only natural for the firm to be involved in the project.
Two C-shaped concrete forms frame the entrance to the tunnel and distinguish a separation between the footpath and the cycle lane. To emphasise this distinction, the two halves of the passageway express a different materiality. Steel gratings cover the wall of the cycle lane for a rough, contemporary finish, whilst a tiled mural wraps the wall and ceiling of the footpath, creating reference to traditional Dutch design. Reinterpreted by graphic designer Irma Boom, the design reflects an artwork by Rotterdam painter Cornelis Bouwmeester, the original of which can be seen on display at the Rijksmuseum. The painting depicts a seascape of a herring fishing fleet alongside the Warship Rotterdam – though Boom replaced the original crest on the stern of the ship with the Amsterdam coat of arms.
The process to produce the 46,000 wall tiles, as well as 33,000 floor tiles, took Dutch ceramic company Royal Tichelaar Makkum five years to complete. Each Delft Blue tile – in the traditional Old Dutch format of 130 x 130 mm – was meticulously hand painted to imitate the original eighteenth century masterpiece.