A new impetus and a warmer atmosphere – that was architect Ben van Berkel’s remit when he was given the assignment to transform the entrance of the UNStudio building. And did he succeed! “It has become much more inviting for people to just walk in,” Van Berkel says.
The entrance hall of the UNStudio building has undergone a massive change. Is it the tremendous height, the earthly colours or the abundance of light that gives the new entrance this real ‘wow!’ factor?
Ten years after delivering the 21-floor building he himself designed, architect Ben van Berkel was asked to create a new entrance that should above all appear ‘friendlier’. “It was a very nice assignment. It was wonderful to improve an existing building I designed a long time ago. To correct it, as it were. ”
The present owner, Union Investments, wanted to give the entrance hall a new dimension and a warmer character. “We realized that by using ultra-transparent glass, enabling people outside to see what’s happening inside. The plants we incorporated into the entrance hall create a nice play between inside and outside.” Another noticeable change is the connection with Coffee DC at the other side of Claude Debussylaan. “This could have been made even more visible, if it was for me.”
The character of the new entrance hall of this building, located at the corner of Gustav Mahlerlaan and Parnassusweg, is defined by amazing lines of sight, a sense of openness and free-standing columns. And, of course, by the copper-coloured artwork hanging from the ceiling, a real eye-catcher. “In the old days, people used chandeliers to draw attention to the ceiling. We’ve given this a modern touch, using the movement of light to give the illusion the ceiling is even higher than it is.”
UNStudio, Ben van Berkel’s architectural firm, is an office with versatile professionals. “That artwork is of our own making; our interior design department really pushed the boundaries there. We also came up with the bench flowing over into the planter and other surprise elements, including the chairs in the entrance. All these things together give visitors that feeling of ‘Wow!’ when they enter this building.”
Interesting fact: there is another Van Berkel building at the Zuidas – the NautaDutilh building on Beethovenstraat was also designed by UNStudio. “When the UNStudio building was delivered in 2009, there were mainly offices here at the Zuidas. Back then, I said they should avoid creating a monoculture as the place would be dead after 5 p.m. and people wouldn’t feel safe going home after work. It’s much more lively now, with all the restaurants, bars and cafés that have sprung up, and due to the residential tower blocks that have been built.”
“I would definitely like to stay involved with the Zuidas and I’ve already been asked to look at new projects. It is important to keep building residential homes here, not just high-end apartments. Only then, the Zuidas will be able to make a real contribution to the city of Amsterdam. Actually, I think people underestimate how close the Zuidas is to the town centre and how nice it is to live here. As you can see, I’m very upbeat about the Zuidas!”
Architect Ben van Berkel
Photo: Christian Richters and Els Zweerink