A Harbour for Homes

Project

A Harbour for Homes consists in an infrastructure embodying housing and park and acts as an alternative solution to the actual expansion plan of the Houthaven district on Amsterdam’s waterfront.

The urban plan of the municipality establishes seven artificial islands predominantly for residential and commercial use with public green areas that act as connection element with the city and the district itself.

The contradiction of this intent is in the absence of green areas in the most important place for the entire Houthaven, in fact on the Pontsteiger pier (in which currently has actually been built a huge landmark) the public space is abruptly interrupted. Design strategy tries instead to respect the overall concept defining an actual link to rest of the public areas.

Furthermore the strategy adopted makes the project grow together with the rest of the district, this idea allows not to build more than what is necessary and to use spaces  before the conclusive shape is realised.
This process defines a changeable landscape that reaches its saturation over the time, public space regulates the growth of private ones, acting like a motherboard with its plugin devices.

A linear infrastructure on two programmatically distinct levels establishes a system that satisfies the needs of an harbour with ferry service, boat facilities and storage, together with the demand for leisure through a lush park with seats, trees, spaces for events and sport facilities, furthermore the public element allows the access to the private building at both the levels.

Two kind of residences are defined, fixed and floating, on one hand defined by standards and on the other hand by the user himself following the principle of Do it Yourself. Overall the number of people that this configuration can accommodate is similar to the one that has actually been built.

Fixed residences consist of two typologies: a house-office residence with a part that is more in contact with the exterior and therefore with public areas, that can be used as a closable working space allowing the privacy of the other inhabitants; a second typology with huge flexibility given by foldable panels change the asset of the space in order to get a bigger living room during the day and more privacy for the bedroom during the night.

With the Do It Yourself typology instead of make housing it’s possible to make “homing”, because homes will be moved directly in their own location after buyer’s configuration, choosing what best matches his needs from a catalogue.
User’s choice could ideally make possible an architecture without architects, after the subdivision of the development takes place the variety of possibilities for houses can also be endless, the project intends to show just one of the infinite possible configurations.

Mixing different typologies of houses conceived for a huge range of users allows to generate an heterogeneous community that is not closed to itself but opened to the city. A “mobile architecture” for a “liquid society”.

Interview

What defined the language of representation of the project?

I strongly believe that each project needs to be represented accordingly to its specifics and its target audience; as architects we have the responsibility to mould and renew ourselves each time in order to express our ideas at their best.

In this case I had to present my Master thesis to an expert jury of professors, this gave me the occasion to abstract the drawings as much as possible and not to produce renders which would have given to much specificity to a project whose aim was to be as open as possible to an evolution and a growth that deliberately leaves ample room to the unexpected and the will of the users.

The pattern of the sky and the colour palette refer to Van Gogh’s paintings, I think that this choice could unconsciously suggest at a first glimpse to the observer that the plot is in Netherlands referring to the mainstream culture of the people about this country.

How important is the diagram as tool for communicating ideas and concepts?

Diagrams are very important to effectively express an idea and to tell a story especially at the first phases of a project. I think that are the most powerful tools (together with renders) to reach the broadest audience (see BIG).

I see diagram also as an instrument of control that helps us to check at the end of a phase of the project if we have been coherent to our ideas and also if these ideas are still strong and valid when we move from the concept to the architecture.

What prompted the project?

During the studies I developed an interest toward Yona Friedman’s theories which I tried to apply in some of my projects. I’ve always been fascinated especially by his idea of architecture as an open process which raises the user as main creator of his own way of leaving.

When I finished the exams I had the occasion to work as intern at NL Architects in Amsterdam with the idea to develop my Master thesis in this city.
After a research I found a plot in the expansion plan of the Houthaven District which was perfect to apply the themes I’m interested in. In fact the municipality already allowed the people to use the area through ephemeral buildings which would have been removed after the definitive ones would have been built and already featured Superlofts by Marc Koehler, a Do it yourself housing project in which the loft could evolve over time and can be tailored to the user.

How and to what extent have Yona Friedman's theories affected how you operate as an architect?

I think that Friedman deeply influenced my way of thinking as architect, I see his theories still relevant but not enough investigated.
He focuses on the human being as something complex which feels and pursues an innate need to shape the space that surrounds him.
My approach to the project always starts from this consideration.

What defined your interest in housing? What are the contemporary challenges of housing within our hyper dense metropolis?

Laugier sees the origin of the architecture in the The Primitive Hut as a comfortable evolution from the cave, Filarete tells that Adam in a stormy day, in front of God that was going to expel him from the Eden, joined the hands to form a roof to protect him from the divine rage and the rain.
House is something atavistic, is a primary necessity that is often devalued or trivialised by simplistic solutions to a complex system as modern society.
I think that the main challenge for our hyper dense metropolis is to provide homes and not houses, avoiding alienation through solutions that are tailored to a specific human being. We have to avoid standard housing for non-standard people and at the same time we have to deal with the feasibility demanded from the market.

In a conference Enzo Mari states that work and home should to be at a distance of 30minutes from each other to allow for the individual to be inspired by the city and allow for communication with its people. At a time where we are so absorbed in our own selves and already lack physical interaction, to what extent do you trust in the correct juxtaposition of house/work within a singular space?

I do believe that compressing house and work in a singular space still can work if this happens in an interconnected system.
When this space is part of a community and at the same time gives you the possibility to reconnect to your thought stream I think that is the ideal condition.

Where do you see the future of both typologies, housing and office, 50 years from now?

I hope that both office and housing will become more and more opened to the public and the relation between people, I see coworking and cohousing as a possible solution to the alienation of the big cities. But I’m also afraid that the improvement and the success of Virtual Reality might affect negatively our way of living, although I’m really fascinated by this technology as an amazing instrument to experience a certain environment or situation I think that in the future could give us an excuse
to stop pursuing a better reality in order to invent a fake one which could justify our laziness or ineptitude.

What would you say is the architect's most important tool?

Sensibility. I retain that a good architect should empathize with people in order to really understand their needs. We have to make architecture human again.

About

Gianluca Lattanzi is an Italian architect based in Amsterdam. He has studied Architecture at Unicam Saad in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, where he got the bachelor degree with Cristiano Toraldo di Francia (founder of Superstudio) and the Master degree with Pippo Ciorra (senior curator of architecture at Rome’s MAXXI museum) as supervisors. He collaborated with different offices such as NL Architects, Polylester and DELVA Landscape Architecture Urbanism in the Netherlands.
His portfolio shows interest in many fields and themes, especially he pays attention on different ways of living and how housing can affect people’s life.
Being fascinated by Yona Friedman’s theories, his projects are often conceived as open solutions, ready to be reconfigured following the ever-changing needs of the users.

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