The brief for Borneo and Sporenburg, two peninsulas in the eastern part of the Amsterdam docks, tied together two seemingly opposing ideas. On the one hand the potential of the large scale dockland area was to be exploited for water-related activities, on the other hand the brief called for 2500 low-rise dwelling units, with a density of 100 units per hectare. Taking these points of departure presented a fascinating and unique opportunity for an urban experiment.
West 8 sought the solution in developing a new typology of three-storey, ground-accessed houses deviating from the usual terraced house in being strongly oriented to the private realm, in this case by incorporating patios and roofgardens. This approach is a variant upon the traditional type of Dutch canal house. A great deal of what would normally be designed as public space is included in the plots, thus creating space within the walls of the buildings.
By repeating this typology in a great variety of dwelling modes (from social housing to exclusive apartments) and with maximum architectural variation, an animated street elevation emerges with a focus on the individual plot and property owner. At the scale of the area as a whole, a delicately balanced relationship exists between the repetition of the individual dwellings, the roofscape and the great scale of the docks.
Three immense sculptural blocks take their place in the vast expanse of houses in a configuration derived from nodes of interest in the surrounding landscape. They offer occupants a spectacular view, and conversely, are landmarks visible from a distance. The elastic quality of the building generates a wide variety of dwelling types. The interaction of high-rise and low-rise provides an urban fabric, orientation, and structure. The scent of the water, the sunsets and reflections over the canals are pulled into the living environment.