The Monthly European Architectural Newsletter - July 2012
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The future of the big housing estates

During the after-war years, numerous collective housing complexes are built to solve the pressing needs for houses. But today, those buildings are facing serious insufficiencies. Many public deconstruction programmes are launched, resulting from a strong will to transform the city’s image. But the increasing deficit of social buildings, generated by the demography and the immigration influx, would normally require an increase and acceleration of the construction activities. Which qualitative and innovative answers can be given to face such an imperative? How can one put these dwellings in line with the life styles, the society evolution, the sustainable development challenges and the social justice? To face such problems many architects have taken a new approach. They propose a complete renovation giving a more economical, efficient and qualitative answer to the needs encountered. The idea is not to demolish, but to add and to transform. Starting from the building components’ analysis, following a trail going from inside to outside, the designers try to exploit the initial architecture, whilst efficiently adapting it to the contemporary norms. And also recover the pleasure of living, by adopting a precise attitude including everything that exists. Indeed, many big housing complexes don’t offer presently satisfactory and adequate living conditions, however proposing a potential for quality. Their structural and spatial capacities are very often a good starting point. Frequently, the buildings are strong, with pleasant distant and open views from the top floors, a nice location close to the city centre, with inhabitants appreciating their local community life but disturbed by the bad image of their area. This is sufficient reason to use all these assets as a basis for change. Offering larger housing surfaces with natural light, offering nonstandard typologies, many use opportunities, considering the interiors qualities and the common spaces as a precondition to urban quality, are contemporary objectives. The architectural transformations are the efficient tools able to improve the social cohesion, the quality of life and the prosperity of a contemporary town.

The Archi-Europe team

Portrait of the month

1) Willem Jan Neutelings & Michiel Riedijk

2) Minnaert Building

3) The Sphinxes

4) Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

5) Shipping and Transport College

6) The Walterbos

7) Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS)

8) Culture house

9) Culture house

10) Internationaal Dans en Muziek Centrum (IDMC)
Neutelings Riedijk Architecten, Rotterdam

During the last 25 years, Neutelings Riedijk Architecten, one of the most prolific practices in the Netherlands, imposed themselves by conceiving complicated projects, by their programmes, their forms and their envelopes.

Established in Rotterdam since 1987, the agency created by Willem Jan Neutelings (*1959) and Michiel Riedijk(*1964) is renowned for its sculptural buildings with expressive textures resulting from strong concepts. Both have graduated from the Delft Technische Universiteit and belong to the few contemporary architects daring to use decorative elements. In their recent works, they even, for fun, used atypical motives printed or sculptured. The internal spaces are often piled up and interconnected, arousing discovery. Far from the architectural conventions, the specific use of forms and materials looking simple, motivate a strange feeling giving strength to the work. All the programmes are handled with pertinence. Housing projects, public buildings, museums, hotels, shops or office buildings show a special talent to exploit the site at its best and create peculiar set-ups that make them unique in their environment.

The Utrecht University Minnaert Building is original thanks to the special treatment given to the façades with red coloured concrete thrown on metallic wire netting. The architects chose a simplified aesthetic concept: the «waves» breaking the façade’s flatness are in fact different reliefs made by the pipings. Built on the lakeside, in order to take a maximum advantage of the location and the light, the five apartment buildings «The Sphinxes» are covered with grey unpolished aluminium panels, reflecting the water and the clouds. The challenge of the Image and Sound Hilversum Institute was to establish a dense and compact building, which would not occupy the whole site. The restriction limiting the height at 20 meters obliged to build five levels underground. Merging various institutes in the Maritime Forwarding sector, this training centre is an ambitious and special project.

Instead of a usual conventional horizontal construction, the architects preferred a 14-story building simulating the atmosphere of a vertical city. The Walterbos complex is one of the most important branches of the Tax Office. To unify with coherence the two new towers with the four others built in 1960, the architects have created a building base opening towards big underground patios. The main architectural element seen from outside is a water surface covering the underground building from where emerge two stainless steel cones providing daylight to the underground areas. This steel skin has a dragon imprint drawn by the Dutch artist Rob Birza.

New urban reference, the Museum aan de Stroom (Antwerp) dedicated to the town’s history, is a 60 m tower imposing itself by the façade rhythm. Covered outside as well as inside by red Indian sandstone the monolithic building is emptied in many places by large glass and corrugated panels enabling crossed views. Among the projects under way, let us mention two cultural centrums in Amersfoort and Arnhem. Organized as the piling up of different programmes, the first one - The Eemhuis - improves the continuity of the public space in the building.

At ground level, the public space becomes a covered piazza, foyer of the exhibition centre. The second one is drawn like a public way winding from the narrow streets of Arnhem’s medieval city centre. Another project which won an award at a recent architecture competition: the IDMC (International Dans en Muziek Centrum) is a compact construction in the centre of The Hague, the combination of various concert halls with a cupola on the top. The heart of the building is formed by a great atrium, the extension of the urban space.

Which is the common denominator of all these projects? It is perhaps to create an identity through monumentality and ornamentation. An anchoring point against the present buildings’ uniformity giving a direct answer to the local production conditions, to the geographic or cultural specificities. With always attention given to the urban integration. The buildings, precisely connected to the place where they are built, try to integrate the urban culture thanks to their materials, their forms, their colour, and their iconography. This cultural approach shows that liberty means also obligations. By definition, a building erected in a public space becomes a public act. Which supposes to take its responsibilities by contributing to shape the urban identity. Without speculation nor ambiguity.

1) Willem Jan Neutelings & Michiel Riedijk

2) Minnaert Building, Utrecht (1994 – 1997)

3) The Sphinxes, Huizen (1996 – 2003)

4) Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Hilversum (1999 – 2006)

5) Shipping and Transport College, Rotterdam (2001 – 2006)

6) The Walterbos, Apeldoorn (2000 – 2007)

7) Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS), Anvers (2000 – 2010)

8) Culture house, Amersfoort (in process)

9) Culture house, Arnhem (in process)

10) Internationaal Dans en Muziek Centrum (IDMC), The Hague (First Prize International Architecture Competition 2012)

© Neutelings Riedijk Architecten
Project of the month

© Daniel Hopkinson

© Daniel Hopkinson

© Peter Bennett
Park Hill, Sheffield (UK)

To face the after-war housing crisis, the social Park Hill Flats complex is planned by the architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith in 1945. They don’t draw isolated towers, but try and reproduce in a tall building the urban life of the narrow streets. The construction starts in 1957 and finishes in 1961. Its equipments and community spirit deserve praise. Inspired by Le Corbusier’s «Unités d’habitation», more particularly the Cité Radieuse in Marseille, the entirely exposed concrete complex, was considered revolutionary at the time. Its power comes from its unusual scale. The roof line remains level, but the floors follow the land slope, in a way that the blocks have a varying height from four levels on the top to thirteen at the bottom, meaning that at some places the «streets» are at ground level.

The concrete box marks are clearly visible, showing the manual work stamp. The orange, red and violet bricks are laid with an abstract pattern as per the artist John Forrester’s design. Visual pollution for its deprecators, icon for its unconditional admirers, the complex was no more, after decades of negligence, a pleasant place to live in, nor a construction adapted to today’s criteria. Despite some problems, the complex remains sound, unlike many examples of the years 50. Rated Grade II since 1997, because of its architectural importance, of its innovative use of «sky streets», and its impressive scale, it is the largest listed building in Europe.

An ambitious renovation is then decided and implemented by the British real estate developer Urban Splash. One part is dedicated to the social flats, the other to an open market and a shopping area, in order to avoid a «ghetto». English Heritage supplies expert advise on the impact of the change, whilst identifying the heritage values not only on the site’s history but also with the vision of the original social building, its reinforced concrete structure and the relation of the building with the local environment.

The total and meticulous renovation completely emptied the buildings, except the concrete structure (restored in about 5500 places). The architects Hawkins-Brown with the Studio Egret West have given a great consideration to the façade, in view of its important visibility in the environment. Guaranteed against decolouration, the red, orange and yellow anodized aluminium panels recreate the coloured bricks tones of the original façade, whilst emphasizing the modular structure. These new filling panels don’t damage the historical importance of these buildings. Urban Splash’s intention is to transform the place into a complex where people want to live and invest.

If the internal proportions stay the same, the nicely sized and intelligently drawn flats are reintegrated with large openings offering wonderful views on the city. At the same time, access and security have been improved. Today Ivor Smith likes the renovation of this complex, its new vitality. «The care given to the renovation of this abandoned structure is impressive, he says». For him it is like a new start. The original ideas are respected despite the changes. If on the Northern side, there are already some quite comfortable apartments, the metamorphosis continues. Park Hill is and will stay the largest application of the brutalist ethics and aesthetics, spawned from the modernist architectural movement.

Product of the month

Created in 1969 and installed in the Rhône-Alpes region nearby Lyons is HORIZAL specialized in the manufacturing of aluminum guardrails.

The HORIZAL products are based on an exclusively mechanical assembling with stainless steel nuts and bolts. No welding.

This process covered by many patents is the reason for the success of HORIZAL world famous guardrails. These guardrails, which are delivered ready to install with tailored sections and all assembling parts, are easily and rapidly installed on worksites. They are exceptionally resistant. And, time has not been able to alter the quality of the oldest models.

FERIA is an axed guardrail.
The intermediate rails and the filler panels are located in the median plane of the posts. Its design imitates steel guardrails, especially with its double posts.
The ground plate is thin and adjustable in the front/rear plane. This model is available in the empty space or stop under handrail version with one or two optional intermediate rails.

Special feature: The modules are delivered with the posts preinstalled.

Competitions in the spotlight

Registration Deadline: 30 October 2012
The first worldwide architecture contest for students in architecture Archi-World® Academy Award (AWA) 2011/2013: "Energy-saving projects and ideas for the future of architecture and urbanism".

Click here to see the Archi-World® Academy Trailer

Click here to register!
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Registration Deadline: 8 September 2012
BolognaFiere and Archi-Europe jointly organize a special contest "SAIESelection" in order to select 18 projects and concepts (9 for young architects and 9 for students) on the theme “The built environment renewal. Regenerate and improve – Highly innovative and sustainable solutions".

Click here to register!
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Registration Deadline: 2 September 2012

Marmomacc Architecture and Design Competition 2012

Veronafiere and Archi-Europe jointly organize a special contest "MARMOMACC Architecture and Design Competition 2012" in order to select 9 projects and concepts on the topic: Stone.

All 9 projects and/or concepts will be presented in a special dedicated exhibition in the framework of the MARMOMACC International Trade Fair for Stone, Design and Technologies taking place in Verona (Italy) from September 26 to September 29, 2012.

click here to register!

Event in the spotlight

Saie 2012

SAIE, always the foremost exhibition for the construction industry and for the presentation of innovations for professionals, focuses this year on a critically important subject: renewal of buildings and homes and environmental and energy sustainability. All aspects of this subject, strategic for the entire Italian System and for the economic recovery of the building industry, will be covered during the 2012 edition and in the weeks prior to the exhibition thanks to the organisation of conferences and workshops and to the contribution of international experts working with BolognaFiere to create “A new Saie for a New Concept of Building.”

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26 - 29 September 2012
Marmomacc 2012

Marmomacc, essential appointment for stone industry. International fair for operators in the marble sector, from machinery to instrumental products, from blocks to more complex stone processing, for professionals in construction and contract sectors as well as designers and decision makers seeking success in an increasingly specialised and competitive context.

(24 – 28/08/2012) Francfort/Main (DE)
(2 – 4/09/2012) Brussels (BE)
Gerhard Richter
(> 24/09/2012) Paris (FR)
(21 – 23/10/2012) Verona (IT)
Open Borders
(> 5/08/2012) Copenhagen (DK)
(22 – 25/09/2011) London (UK)
>> read more
Reconstruction of Notre Dame de l'Assomption, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Deadline: 15/07/2012
Marmomacc Architecture and Design Contest 2012
Deadline: 02/09/2012
Saie Selection 2012
Deadline: 08/09/2012
Archi-World® Academy Awards 2011-2013
Deadline: 30/10/2012
>> read more

Form Follow Nature

512 pages
€ 63.59
German / English
ISBN 978-3-7091-0855-0
>> read more
Architecture végétale
Jean-François Daures

250 pages
€ 32.00
Editions Eyrolles
ISBN: 978-2-212-12674-7
>> read more
Accessible Architecture
Philipp Meuser

408 pages
€ 78.00
DOM publishers
ISBN 978-3-86922-169-4 (German)
ISBN 978-3-86922-170-0 (English)
>> read more

© 2012 Archi-Europe
Responsible Editor: Jacques Allard
Chief Editor: Marie-Claire Regniers

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