Without pause, the four jury members agreed that it perfectly represented all that the award was really about: in their words, the 16-station project is truly public, intelligently done and remarkably good-looking considering the municipality’s budgetary constraints.
During the deliberation talks, Francine Houben of Mecanoo figured out how to best navigate her transportation back-and-forth from De Kromhouthal that day to ensure she’d be able to experience the line first-hand. Fellow Institutions jury member Alex de Rijke of dRMM called the transformation ‘turning a dinosaur into a delight.’ Gyula Öry of Cairn Real Estate enthusiastically explained to Marie Hesseldahl-Larsen, partner at 3XN, more about the urban context of project.
I told them about how one of the stops on Oostlijn – Wibautstraat [see title image and first image below] – is actually my home base. In the autumn, when the entrance on one side of the street was closed for construction, it was like a game of Frogger: people would run across the first two lanes, wait in the grassy centre divider, and then run again over the next two lanes. Little did I – and my neighbours – know how well worth the wait would be.
In a conversation with architects Maarten van Bremen and Maarten Lever from Group A, I learned that that positive reception was tenfold from fellow commuters, whether their journeys began at the line’s start at Amsterdam Centraal, or at its end in the southeast of the city.
As someone who’s not originally from the Netherlands, it’s especially interesting to think about how the history of the stations interplays with what you were able to do with the space. What was the municipality looking to address with the renovation?
MAARTEN VAN BREMEN: The redesign started initially in 2000 – they wanted to completely redo each separate station. But the budget was limited, and it was decided after three stations were completed that the remaining 16 would instead be renovated. First, we had to work on the general design and unification of the locations.
MAARTEN LEVER: Our vision was very much about reusing the brutalist architecture and giving it meaning. It’s important to point out that we had a team of advisors – the light designer, the structural engineer, the cost calculator and so on – under our supervision. This was motivated in part by the fact that the client felt the complexity of dealing with the technical differences in each station.
MB: Because we handled 16, we could go a lot further with testing anti-graffiti methods, vision lines, glass solutions, window frames – everything. We handled it quite thoroughly.
ML: We dealt with really large numbers. For example, I think we brought in three kilometres of wooden hand-railing, and nearly 400,000 tiles.
You had to use materiality very strategically in this project. How did you go about making the selections for some of the larger treatments?
MB: The floor is made from thick cement-bound conglomerate tiles, with natural stones in it. It looked dirty, and there were a lot of objects screwed to the floor. We wanted to move those objects and leave the floor as clear as possible. We also did a lot of resistance tests to make sure that people wouldn’t fall if it was slick from the rain.
ML: We chose ceramic tiles for the walls to uniquely contrast with the cleaned, coated concrete walls; the glazing treatment gives a sudden burst of colour. Instead of using panels, we wanted the focus to be on the concrete, especially to give visual priority to other elements that we wanted to stand out more.
MB: The ceilings were sunken and low, because they were originally designed in a caisson style [a construction technique that utilises sunken panels in an otherwise flat ceiling] in the 70s. We found that a black ceiling would give the illusion of depth, and thus height.