Westerdokseiland is a high density residential complex in Amsterdam just east of Central Station. The land, previously railyards and industrial docklands, was reclaimed and divided into three blocks for redevelopment. The design of the South Block was then assigned to three different architects, with each part of the plan having its own courtyard and periscope. The resulting residential complex contains diverse housing types; large and small, rented and privately owned, exclusive and affordable, all designed around three internal courtyards, each with their own atmosphere and identity.
The South Block was designed in partnership with Architecten Cie and Heren 5. Meyer and Van Schooten Architects designed La Grande Cour – the smallest building of the three and the first to be completed, comprising 250 homes and 2500 m2 of commercial space, a parking garage, retail and hospitality zones.
The difference in individual architectural styles is most evident in the courtyards. Constant coordination during the planning process supported consolidation of differences and transitions in the designs. The trio also consulted on the internal layout and circulation, resulting in external walkways and corridors that continue through the three different wings.
High density views
The dwellings are organized around the three courtyards. Specially placed openings in the outer walls allow views in and out of the courtyards in every direction, making it possible to create pleasant housing despite the high density (300 dwellings per hectare). For the same reason, the tall buildings in the spatial masterplan were designed as ‘periscopes’ cantilevering above the perimeter buildings to focus on the panoramic views.
At the southern court of La Grande Cour the deck slopes slightly upwards. A garden of gravel and lavender with a mature tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is situated in the deck. The facades are finished with light grey fibre-reinforced cement-based panels. The fall protection on the galleries is ensured by mounting strips of woven stainless steel mats in front of the gallery openings. The tower is distinguished by dark grey panels with recessed grooves.
Relaxed urban living
Designed to minimize the negative impacts of high-density urban living and improve resident satisfaction, La Grande Cour embraces variety as a central design element, both visually and in terms of purpose; every dwelling features a balcony or communal roof terrace to provide the widest possible view of the surrounding area. There is a wide variety of dwelling types in several categories, from subsidised rental to upmarket owner-occupied dwellings.
Various commercial spaces are located on the ground floor on Westerdoksplein (market square), with hospitality in the southwest corner of the complex. From the three communal roof terraces on the seventh floor there is a view over the old city and the river IJ. The end result is high-density, relaxed urban living with beautiful views.