AMSTERDAM – Studioninedots has designed student apartments on Zeeburgereiland in one of the last remaining pieces of land undeveloped within the A10 ring road, which defines the inner-city limits of Amsterdam. The apartment block is conveniently located only a 15-minute bike ride away from Amsterdam University and Amsterdam University College. Flevopark is situated in the centre of the commute and is an accessible outdoor option while the new residents wait for the rest of the island to develop around them.
The rectangular building is essentially a 134-m-long prism oriented on an east–west axis and bent slightly at the west end to conform to the shape of the neighbouring motorway. The architect was supplied a development plan which had allowed for outdoor living space to the north of the building. As an alternative to the undesirably shady exterior living, the creative team decided to locate the living space on the upper levels of the building. To drive the concept further, the building mass is moulded by pushing down the roof at the centre of the southern edge. This move – much like BIG’s New York court-scraper in Mark #64 – terraced the building creating a communal outdoor space; as an off-shoot, the building mass takes the form of a smile, giving rise to its nickname: Smiley.
The island has been earmarked for urban development for some time, with a plan designed by Marlies Rohmer Architects & Urbanists in collaboration with the city’s planning department. The proposal spans two decades, and includes development zones for sports, business and housing that have a mixed target market in the hopes of attracting a heterogeneous population to the inner-city island. The landmass is still largely barren, with the student accommodation being one of the early anchor developments.
When thinking about the transformation of an area that previously has had little habitation at all, it seems the introduction of low-cost apartments for students at an early stage is an intelligent strategy. Students can’t deny the benefits of affordable accommodation, given that often they are without income. Broadly speaking, they are a younger demographic that like to socialise and, bring energy and buzz to an area, which has a tendency to activate environments.