The metropolitan character of the housing complex is expressed at the tip of the west side of the complex. Located here is a large, shared roof terrace for residents, and small boats can moor between the columns underneath. Overlooking the IJ is a huge and particularly beautiful public terrace, which can be accessed via steps beneath the building. This terrace is the end point of a fine promenade along the IJ, and will ensure that the building becomes an attractive destination, and not just for architecture tourists.
MBM (Martorell, Bohigas & Mackay) from Barcelona, Rudy Uytenhaak and MVRDV were invited to submit designs for a varied programme of owner-occupied and rental dwellings, commercial properties, and public functions. MVRDV were selected because they emphasised the conflicting character of the various programme components by weaving them together. The commercial units and semi-public spaces were not to be confined automatically to ground level but distributed throughout the complex. This would result in a truly metropolitan housing complex comprising 135 owner-occupied dwellings, 14 rental dwellings and 1,400 m2 of commercial space. To achieve a degree of transparency and preserve views of the river IJ from the Houthaven, three large 'holes' were made in the volume. One was intended as a dock, the other two as semi-public spaces for residents and users of the complex.
The building is almost completed now, and in a few months the first residents will move in. Have the high expectations been met? Is it indeed a truly metropolitan housing complex? Of the original plan, what has survived and what has disappeared?
Over the years the programme has changed somewhat. The complex now contains 142 owner-occupied and 15 rental dwellings, and only 600 m2 of the intended 1,400 m2 of business units have been realised. As a result, the aim of mixing functions spatially has not been realised. All commercial units have been gathered in a clearly recognisable volume. Yet the complex has not turned into a monotonous housing block. The variety of dwelling size and plan arrangement is so rich that the intention of a building made up of different 'neighbourhoods' has been achieved. Each neighbourhood is composed of between four and eight dwellings identical in terms of layout and access. In many cases the dwellings are flexible to allow for easy subdivision. Where the occupant of one maisonette has his bedroom, his neighbour has his kitchen.
The location of the different neighbourhoods is legible on the facade, each of which is expressed differently. The urge to design many different floor plans each with a different facade creates tension in places. A curtain wall for everyone was apparently not an option, since it would have meant crossbars at eye-level and minimal 'outside spaces', a corner of a room enclosed by glass with a single opening section.