Page E1.1 . 20 November 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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Urbane Waterfront

by ArchitectureWeek

Two expansive dockland peninsulas on Amsterdam's eastern waterfront have been transformed into landmark residential neighborhoods. Without compromising the traditions and character of the Dutch city, the striking Borneo Sporenburg housing project emphasizes the importance of open space within a high-density environment. The project, its master planner Adriaan Geuze, and his firm, West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture of Rotterdam, have been awarded the seventh Veronica Rudge Green Prize in Urban Design by Harvard Design School, where the project is on exhibit.

West 8 began work on the 2500-unit Borneo Sporenburg Residential Waterfront in 1996. The program called for suburban-style, low-rise housing, each with a front door opening onto the street, to be built at a density of 40 units per acre (100 units per hectare), three times the density of a typical suburban development.

The resulting design draws on and enhances the surrounding landscape and features a rhythmic interplay of built and unbuilt forms. It is inspired by traditional Dutch villages, where small houses front the water, and by the indoor/ outdoor relationships in the 17th-century paintings of Johannes Vermeer.

Low-rise structures are arranged in banded blocks and subdivided into individual parcels, each containing an inside void that makes up 30 to 50 percent of the parcel. The outdoor environment created "within" each building is critical to the project's livability. More than 100 architects participated in the planning process, developing new housing prototypes that incorporate these voids. Their designs feature patios, roof gardens, and views of the waterfront.

The Borneo Sporenburg plan divides the grid of low-rise housing in three places with architecturally distinctive medium-rise residential buildings, or "sculptural blocks," which create significant landmarks in the harbor landscape. These blocks also contain collective open space in the form of a courtyard or garden. The water surrounding the docks serves as the dominant public space, open to Amsterdam's boating culture.

The Veronica Rudge Green Prize is awarded every two years to recognize excellence in urban design with an emphasis on projects that contribute to the public realm of a city and improve the quality of urban life. Past recipients include Jorge Mario Jauregui Architects, Foster and Partners, and Fumihiko Maki.

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The 2500-unit Borneo Sporenburg Residential Waterfront, master-planned by Adriaan Geuze and his firm, West 8, takes up two entire docks on Amsterdam's waterfront.
Photo: West 8/Jeroen Musch

ArchWeek Image

One of three sculptural bridges that connect the Borneo Sporenburg neighborhoods.
Photo: West 8/Jeroen Musch

ArchWeek Image

The Sphinx Garden is one of many outdoor spaces that improve livability in the high-density urban environment.
Photo: West 8/Jeroen Musch

ArchWeek Image

Waterfront view from an interior by architects Mastenbroek & Van Gameren.
Photo: West 8/Jeroen Musch


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