“Dealing with old buildings or sites can be scary, but what happens if we stop to consider a vacant site as a problem and we start to think of it as a trigger to stimulate new ideas for a future use? What happens if re-using just for the sake or re-using, we consider the spatial, material and formal characteristic of a vacancy as the starting point for a new project?”
The aim of this thesis is to open new horizons for re-use: the chosen location is the NDSM shipyard site, located in Amsterdam. Opened in 1894, it became during the XXth century one of the most advanced ship-factory of Europe and in the world: ships longer than 200 meters were built there, and in the 60’s the factory used to employ more than 2.000 workers. Many videos of the time show how the shipyard was precious also for the inhabitants of Amsterdam: in fact, during the inauguration day of a ship thousands of people used to go on the site, where workers, families, the princess and other important citizens gathered to experience the magic moment of the ship-launch, when a construction cycle was finished and the going away of the ship celebrated the hard and good work that was done in the factory, as well as the Dutch excellence in ship-building. Unfortunately, in the 80’s, the Asian competition led fast to the obsolescence of the company, that closed its doors in 1984, leaving a great frustration among the workers and the whole population of the city. In 2007, after twenty years of abandonment, the site was listed National Monument.
This “industrial ritual”, the movement of a new ship towards the water in which Dutch people could express their cultural belonging, has been analysed by re-drawing it (drawings 1, 2 and 3) to make a comparison with today’s use (drawings 4 and 5): nowadays, the site is almost empty and exposed to the harsh Dutch climate during the winter, while in summer the site hosts festivals, expositions and other outdoor cultural events. The problem is that these events happen informally, and the site is not used at his full potential: for example, the biggest ramp were the launch use to take place is now used as a gentle slope of an architectural amphitheatre for concerts, nothing more, and the emotions linked to the “industrial ritual” are disappeared. Then, a question arises:
“It would be possible to reconnect, even in an abstract way, the collective uses of today with the past feelings of the moment of the launch, giving to the NDSM a new sense of place that is indissolubly linked to a former ritual?”
The movement of the ship above the launching ramp was the trigger to start the design: to evocate this gesture, the design proposal is a Floating Events Hall, placed at the edge of the former launching ramp, close to the dry-dock gate. The building can give a better accommodation to the informal artistic or music events that now happens on site, or give space for experimentation thanks to the fact that the building can float and be moved with a tag boat .
SHAPE AND MATERIALITY
To fit the context, the main reference for the project is the architecture of the ships, with their thousands of steel spines. At the same time, the building wants to be evocative and light, almost reduced to its skeleton: in this way it is clear the distinction between the new addition and the old parts.
THE LANDSCAPE OF AMSTERDAM AS THEATRE BACKGROUND
The building wants to create the atmosphere of being inside the belly of a ship’s hull. Moreover, the sequence of steel “spines” helps to focus on the background of the Event Hall, that thanks to the glass wall is made by the ever-changing landscape of Amsterdam.
DESIGNING IN SECTION
Drawing sections has been useful to lay out all the different behaviours and the different experiences that one visitor can have inside the Floating Hall: who wants to participate actively in the play that is held in central part of the building, who wants to take a moment of rest and enjoy the panoramic view from the corridors and from the balcony, who needs to have a second of peace on the roof or drink a café at the top level.
A FLEXIBLE “BUILDING”
The Floating Events Hall has the capacity to change according the different uses: it can be transparent and appealing from the exterior whenever a festival is taking place, or it can be closed inside with acoustic curtains, in order to better focus on a theatre play or on a more intimate event .
THE STORY OF A JOURNEY
The intervention uncovers a part of the old structure of the ramp and creates a promenade through it: in this way an entrance is given to the surface of the slope, that with the building that floats contributes to create the story of a jouney through an historical monument.
POSSIBILITIES ON THE IJ LAKE
The project has as ultimate but important goal that of foster the experimentation of uses: by moving the Floating Events Hall in different spots of the IJ lake, new and unexpected possibilities can be reached. The drawings propose already three possible scenarios: the building used as outdoor cinema; as a venue for festivals to expand the room for fun on the water; as beach resort, since the IJ lake is becoming cleaner and cleaner and the building can encourage people to use it for leisure and swimming.