The studio generates future scenarios in Amsterdam, 2050. The disconnection between the fast growing business area Zuidas and the tranquil residential area of Oud Zuid and the lack of amenities raised my concern about the living quality and sustainability of development in the future.
Following a semester of research in Amsterdam, the project is a swimming complex in Oud Zuid, as a part of the public sports and leisure network in the city. Dutch people are the 4th most active among EU. 80% people in Amsterdam Zuid exercise at least weekly. In the future, health care will be more focus on voluntary prevention instead of medicine and cure once our health problems appear. Sports and exercises as a major way of prevention of obesity and chronic diseases will be a part of the public health care system in The Netherlands.
There are already a lot of sports facilities in the Oud Zuid Area but more than half of the sports facilities are private. The traditional sports club system is obstacles for the poor, the newcomers to the city or people do not belong to a certain social group to enjoy them these sports facilities. Apart from getting physically healthy, the face to face company of friends or even strangers will be very crucial for the future digital world to enhance mental health. Our appearances and the form of swimming itself also break down some barriers between different social groups. In the smart but probably also very expensive and crowded Amsterdam in 2050, I believe the primitive kind of leisure will have even bigger meaning to the city than now.
The booming business district Zuidas and the residential area in Oud Zuid surrounding it are disconnected from each other. The project could act as a bridge to connect the workplaces and homes in the aspects of time, location, and programmes. In the future, the old neighbourhood park Beatrixpark will be extended across Highway A10 and it will become a wholesome sports park that facilitates both Zuidas and the Oud Zuid residential area. Lying on such a prime location between Station Zuid and Rai, the urban oasis will be Central Park for Zuidas. The swimming complex will stand on the east side of the park.
The shape of the building is inspired by the existing paddling pool and planter in the park. There are three major circulations in the swimming complex. The first one is the bike highway going crossing the complex above the playground and leads to the bike parking on the first floor and bridge to RAI. The second circulation is a walking circulation circling the playground on the ground floor. All the programmes can be reached via this circulation from the ground floor. This is the shortest circulation of all the programmes and means for regular visitors.
The last circulation was inspired by mountains, which the Dutch landscape lacks, and to be more specific, crater mountains. This spiral circulation going up along the inner facade of the building cluster, it provides a panorama view of both the swimming complex itself and the view of the surrounding park, as if you are hiking up along the crater. The circulation provides access to all the programmes from the upper floors and finally, it goes across the swimming hall and leaves the complex. It is meant for casual visitors of the park passing by the swimming complex and hopefully, the comprehensive skimming of the programmes along the way can attract them to become regular visitors.
What prompted the project?
On our first excursion to Amsterdam Zuid, we walked around Zuidas among all the booming skyscrapers, quiet social housing blocks and serious looking townhouses from Berlage’s Plan Zuid. I realised there was nothing in common of all these elements. It is a nice place to work or live. But if you want to do anything else, you would go back to the city centre. This is quite sad for me since Amsterdam Zuid is a beautiful place. It deserves to be appreciated more in people’s free time.
I enjoy sports very much myself. I believe exercise is crucial for both mental and physical health and it is great to see how much Dutch people love sports. In my opinion, to be able to exercise as we wish is one of the basic human rights and it should be ensured by the government, just like health insurance. Once I went to a public swimming pool in The Hague, and I found that the adult’s pool was opened to the public for only two hours every day. The rest of the time, the pools were reserved for sports clubs. As an international student in The Netherlands, it was hard for me to understand the concept of traditional sports clubs and why they usually took up too much of the public sports resources. So, when I drew this idyllic mental picture of Amsterdam Zuid in 2050, a complete network of sports facilities fully open to the public was the first thing came to my mind.
How important was the initial research and mapping of the leisure centres within the context of Amsterdam?
The idea of the project came very early and the research of the sports system in The Netherlands and the typology of Amsterdam Zuid really helped me to shape my story. I knew nothing about this area before we started. So all the site visits, the talking, reading and mapping are essential for me to understand the problems in the site and what or why this project would be needed here. Before I mapped all the sports facilities around Amsterdam Zuid, I didn’t know most of them were private or how expensive they could be. They made me see that my design could be feasible in an old, quiet part of this fast-growing city.
What role did the initial collages play in the construction of the project?
In the beginning, I put in a lot of the elements I observed in the area during my site visits. So they are like a note for me in a visual way and I could focus on these elements and figure the target users for my project. We went to Paris for an excursion at the beginning of the project and I saw a David Hockney’s exhibition there. His pools were a big inspiration for me so I put it in one collage, too. Then the collages became a design brief for the project. I tried to show my solutions to the problems and fragments of the ideal 2050 to me, without the architectural part of the project being made. And then in the actual process of designing the building, I always went back to these colleges to remind myself what I wanted to achieve in this project.
How pivotal were the diagrams in developing and communicating the project?
I am a very messy and jumpy thinker. I always come up with bits and pieces of thoughts. In the end, it would be difficult to tell a complete story out of them. So every time I make a diagram I force myself to be logical and tidy up the principles or crucial elements for the situation. So these diagrams are like the cleaner for my disoriented mind to make myself focus on what was needed for the project. They were also great for slideshow presentations since we gave a lot of them. They are catchy for the audience and help them to understand my project better.
What informed the subsequent programmatic distribution of the structure?
I am not an expert of structures. I had a lot of help from my tutors and I also learned a lot throughout the project. I began with the building materials I saw in the neighbourhood and on the other swimming pools in the city since I would like to respect the precedence. And then I decided which goes well with what programme, and what kind of structure would be needed to construct the space for a certain program with a certain material. Of course, the distribution got messy at times. In the end, I decided to use two systems for the two parts of the building: the swimming hall and the supporting facilities. Steel and glass structure for the swimming hall since I want the swimmers to feel connected to the surrounding park as if they were in nature; and concrete frame system for the supporting services buildings next to Rai to pay my tribute.
What defined the various views through which you choose to reveal this?
I got very excited about my project along the way I pushed my design further. So they are really mental pictures of myself working and living in Amsterdam Zuid in 2050, coming to this swimming centre after work or on weekends. The neighbourhood would be such a wonderful place for people of all ages with all kinds of background, which is why it is a swimming centre, not a football court. So that even my Chinese grandma would be able to enjoy it. I also designed a lot of programmes and building details other than the main swimming hall in this project. It was a shame people could not see all of them clearly. So I hope all these views at least give the audience a hint of what these programmes or space would be like.
What influenced the language of representation used? How does this relate to the project?
It was the first project that I presented with slideshows. I was very much used to making just a few drawings and presenting in front of them for my previous projects. Sometimes the story became very fragmented, especially with my jumpy mind. The slideshows made sure I stick to the storyline and it also meant I had to have a complete and logical one. And for the audience, they will look at each slide for 20 seconds instead of the whole presentation. So the storyline is what led the whole project and I couldn’t focus on making only a few striking drawing anymore. Instead, I had to make way more simple pictograms and diagrams for the slideshows to explain my project. I wasn’t so satisfied with the outcome so much when I made my portfolio afterwards since I felt like I needed more of those killing drawings. But the storytelling presentations were probably closer to real life, especially when my audience would be the users, municipality or developers instead of my architectural tutors.
What tools did you use throughout? How did these shape the architecture and proposal?
I took a lot of photographs and made sketches for the site investigation. Google maps were a great help, as well as the city archive of Amsterdam. After that, I made the maps in Rhinoceros and it was also my main 3D design modelling tool. Illustrator and Photoshop for the graphics and diagrams. In the end, InDesign for the layout of the booklets and presentations. I think the tools didn’t shape the architecture as much as how I see the site and what I want in the project did. There were 9 people studying the same site with more or less the same tools. Eventually, we all have very different outcomes. Louis Kahn didn’t use a computer and Andrea Palladio didn’t even have a camera. Without all these modern tools we have nowadays, they were still great architects. I believe these tools are just to make our work easier.
What is for you the architects most important tool?
I think that would be the architects themselves. What they see, read and feel would be projected onto their projects and I believe the architect’s mind shapes the architecture the most. I know it sounds very arrogant, but it also means architects should really absorb a lot of knowledge about everything and keep up to the changing world. Most importantly, listen to the users and respect the context. And then use your great mind as the most vital tool to transform all these to remarkable architecture.