Slab, corridorSlab, double-loaded, skip stop
The Light Factory
Köther + Salman | Amsterdam, The Netherlands | 1994-99
Image of The Light ...
Street facade, the remodeled factory extends out slightly beneath the upper plane of the new building. The entrance gateway is a fragment from the old factory.

ProjectThe Light Factory
ArchitectKöther + Salman
CountryThe Netherlands
Building TypeSlab, double-loaded, skip stop
Number of Dwellings69
Date Built1994-99
Dwelling Types2,3, BR. maisonettes, lofts
No. Floors8
Section Typedouble-load, skip-stop
Exterior Finish
brick, steel & glass, wood, corrugated metal
Construction Typeconc. frame, various wall materials
Ancillary Servicesparking

This project is situated near the Olympic Stadium, where the grid of the Overtoomse Veld district adjusts to the meandering industrial edge of the Schinkel River resulting in long narrow trapezoidal blocks and great variety in the building heights and styles and alignments. Several dilapidated buildings had to be removed from the side of a perimeter block facing the river leaving several existing buildings as well as a beautiful old factory called The Light Factory. The challenge was to provide about 70 new apartments along the river in a way that integrated the factory building, that was to be renovated and converted to apartments while creating a new façade that unified disparate elements while maintaining the spirit of the individual parcels that existed previously.

An 8-story double-loaded slab is used to connect an existing 6-story building at the north end of the site with a gable-roofed 7-story block at the south end. The bottom 4 floors of this new slab are cut away at the south end to allow it to step up and over the existing brick factory building which is slightly mis-aligned, jutting out a few feet toward the street. A triple-arched gateway was inserted at the intersection between slab and factory walls creating a tall open, colonnaded entrance into the building. Another cutout, this time from the top 5 floors, was made from the building mass towards the north end of the building creating the appearance of two independent buildings that are supported on a common two-story high brick plinth. This large cutout at the top of the street façade helps let light into the garden areas on the interior of the block. A glass corridor connects these two blocks at the 5th floor, along with several cantilevered balconies extending into the space between them. The end walls in the cutout area are finished in cedar. The 2-story plinth is detailed as a zone of punched windows and two-story high concrete portals that are entrances to the bottom zone of apartments. These portals occur in every other bay and align with the height of the main building gateway creating a zone of elements that extend slightly forward of the glass facade above and continue the mis-aligned quality of the factory and the entrance gateway.

In both the new building and the renovated factory long narrow apartments are organized in a double-loaded corridor system with corridors occurring every third floor, in a unité arrangement. A longer version of this type is also used in the upper floors of the factory building. Another similar type, two floors in height, is used in the plinth zone and in the factory remodeling where there are high ceilings in a “loft” arrangement. In both types, services are organized in a zone along the corridors. The apartments open to a very narrow balcony along the street (or framed windows in the factory) and to a deeper “veranda” at the opposite end overlooking the interior of the block. Living spaces face the street while bedrooms open to the rear. Usually, a very deep dwelling, like the Marseilles unité, is used where a building is on an open site with ample room for balconies at either end. This kind of organization is less typical in an infill situation where the depth is limited by the site. Steps have been taken here, however, to alleviate the loss of day lighting resulting from the great depth such as the 2-story high voids in the living rooms, the tall ground floor entrances along the river façade, the deep verandas and gardens in the back and the higher ceilings of the loft types. The tower element on the back of the factory building contains two different dwellings and there is a terrace on the roof of the factory that provides access to the tower and some open space for the top three floors of apartments.

The street façade, continuous and discontinuous, creates a dominant, controlling surface that unites the different parts of the building. This forms a striated layered surface that is part balcony, part screen, that is glazed with full height sliding doors and clear glass balustrades, and is equipped with a system of vertical metal runners that support a continuous grillage of horizontal wood struts.. Although these horizontal fins have little value as west-facing brise-soleil, they reinforce the connective, linear raison d’etre of the west façade and avoid the static pattern of infill glass panels that could have resulted otherwise. This highly articulated, layered façade structure contrasts with the dark brick walls and framed windows, the concrete portals of the plinth and the red brick walls, glazed openings, and stone gate of the factory façade. The rear verandas are detailed as an open steel frame that is two-stories high because of the skip-stop section. This façade is finished in corrugated metal and framed windows. Ideally, the interior of perimeter blocks like this example are treated as a quiet landscaped space that is shared by the residents and can be rendered in many different ways. The parking for this building, however, has been provided on the interior of the block in the form of covered carports. Access to the parking is through the tall portal along the street and is thus shared with residents entering the building on foot. The ground floor dwellings still have ample fenced in garden areas and there are still a few trees, but this is a landscape dominated by paving and the car port roofs.

Architecture in the Netherlands Yearbook, 1999-2000, pp. 106-111.

Kloos, Marten & Dave Wendt. ed., Formats for Living, Arcam Pocket No. 12, Arcam/Architectura & Natura Press, Amsterdam, 2000, p. 111.

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