Southeast of the narrow canals and tightly packed historic buildings of central Amsterdam, the emerging Amstelkwartier neighbourhood meets the east bank of the Amstel river with a very different presence. Vestiges of 19th and 20th century industry meet modern towers, rail tracks, new public spaces and converted warehouses, with a growing number of mid-rise buildings filling in the urban fabric. On Welnastraat, the newly completed Amstellofts stands out amidst a glut of projects reshaping a rapidly changing stretch of the city.
Designed by local firm Studio Prototype, the recently completed residential mid-rise is a streamlined addition to the neighbourhood. Introducing a series of generously proportioned double-height residences, the project meets the street with a concrete facade that immediately sets Amstellofts apart from its predominantly brick-clad neighbours.
The weight and heft of concrete is unapologetically embraced, but the project also embodies an impressively fine-grained urban rhythm. Defined by clean vertical lines, the facade is broken up into three apparent frontages, hinting at the dramatically narrow buildings that define old Amsterdam’s architectural vernacular. From the street, the design reads as a trio of townhomes, creating a friendlier and more legible environment.
Drawing the eye, the strong vertical gesture resolves along the crown of the building, which breaks up the heaviness of the concrete structure with a light, horizontal plinth.
A quiet play of textures accentuates the face of the building. Poured in traditional wooden moulds – with telltale texture to show – coarsely textured concrete fills out the slightly extruded facade, while deeper concrete frames are finished with a smoother surface. It’s a subtle effect, but one that gives the building a sense of depth – and personality.
To maximize open living space, stairwells were placed along the exterior of the building. Facing away from the street, stairways and balconies overlook a small courtyard, fostering a more intimate environment for residents. On the public side of the building, however, most of the street-level frontage is devoted to cars, with three garage entrances placed alongside narrow residential entryways.
The deference to cars is an unfortunate concession – one that disrupts the project’s urban character with a slightly deadening street-level presence. Still, Studio Prototype’s graceful and contextually attuned design makes the building stand apart from its surroundings.
It’s not an iconic building, but it is good architecture. With a polite, carefully proportioned modernist aesthetic, Amstellofts contributes to the urban fabric with quiet aplomb.
Studio Prototype’s Amstellofts project completes the urban fabric while standing apart from its surroundings in the emerging Amstelkwartier neighbourhood.