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Turning the House Inside Out: A New Perspective on Residential Development

Funen Blok K

Article by Nick Shannon Funen Blok K, by NL Architects, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. New housing developments around the world are becoming more sustainable, livable and innovative every day. The key to having a well-rounded project is in the marriage of the buildings and landscape into one continuous experience. People want to live in an area with access to and views of green space, and the field of landscape architecture is critical in designing this experience. However, we cannot do it alone. The building has to be designed with the landscape in mind, and they should both respond to one another. A great example of the blending of views and access to green space is Funen Blok K in Amsterdam by NL Architects. This article will explore why this project is successful, and how the building was designed to maximize the experience of the landscape and its relation to the community.

Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Raoul Kramer

Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Raoul Kramer

Funen Blok K

Part of the Larger Funen Park Development

Funen Blok K is part of a larger housing development in Amsterdam known as Funen Park. This project sits on a former industrial site in proximity to the city centre of Amsterdam and the residential housing is part of its redevelopment. The type of housing in this neighborhood differs from the traditional Dutch residential neighborhood design of streets, parking spaces and back and front gardens. Instead, the area around the residential buildings is treated as one continuous courtyard. There are no private gardens, and the parking was put underground to allow for a purely pedestrian experience above.

Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Raoul Kramer

Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Raoul Kramer

The open parkland consists of 3 simple features: grass, pavement, and scattered trees. This allows residents to flow freely through the landscape without feeling overwhelmed. Specially designed pentagonal concrete pavers in 3 shades of grey create a system of paths that move users through the space and create interest when viewed from above or at ground level. This landscape differs from its context and provides an experience that connects Amsterdam’s city centre with the new neighborhoods in the eastern harbor area.
Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Raoul Kramer

Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Raoul Kramer

Funen Blok K: A New Type of Housing

Funen Blok K is comprised of 10 housing units, all in one unified building structure that unites the residents with each other and their surroundings. Each house is 633 cubic meters in size, and the structure of each unit fluctuates, ranging from 2 to 4 stories tall and featuring rooms of varying widths and lengths. The building bay was designed to be elastic, which offers a variety of units all with the same square footage. The outside of the building is covered with bronze aluminum sheeting, which is recyclable and requires no maintenance. The material of the façade, coupled with its windows, creates a clean, straightforward design that speaks to the open, uncluttered landscape.

Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Raoul Kramer

Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Raoul Kramer

The roof of the building is comprised of 50% greenery (sedum mix) and the other 50% is dedicated to terraces that provide roof access to each unit. The rooftop undulates to allow natural lighting to penetrate each unit, and the greenery creates a new type of elevated landscape within the residential neighborhood. The design of Funen Blok K’s housing yields to the landscape to give users a compact living experience, with an emphasis on sustainability and connection to the surrounding context. WATCH: The design process of the building: very complex, yet simple

Back-to-back Housing Style

This unique housing block is part of a larger typology of back-to-back housing, which means that traditional access is not in the front of the residence, but instead in the back.

Funen-Blok-K

Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Luuk Kramer

Funen Blok K builds upon this with a diagonal cut in the middle of the building that is oriented towards two open spaces. The 10 units orient their backs along this axis and use it for access. All of the structural elements, stairwells, utilities and storage space are in the center of the building along this cut, which opens up the outsides of the structure for window space and views. This makes the facade of the building a striking element of glazing and connection to its context. Views are better for not only the people living in the units, but for people looking at the building as well. A unique living experience indoors is maximized and emphasis is put on the surrounding park. The diagonal valley inside the building emerges and vistas open onto the otherwise dense urban plan, creating relief within the variety of units offered.
Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Raoul Kramer

Funen Blok K. Photo courtesy of NL Architects

Why not bring the function of the building to the inside, coupled with access, and give the exterior the same treatment as the landscape to blend them into one continuous experience? It just makes sense. However, does this create privacy issues? Do you want all of your indoor living activity to be on display to the surrounding neighborhood?
Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Raoul Kramer

Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Luuk Kramer

Living Experience Funen Blok K is enveloped by grass and trees on the ground, and a sedum mix on the roof. Living here is one continuous experience that connects the residents to green space and to each other. The building also creates a focal point in the landscape because of its distinct and undulating form.
Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Luuk Kramer

Funen Blok K. Photo courtesy of NL Architects

The roof gives a unique identity to the building while adding value to the units through rooftop terraces. These special qualities of this project create a place where people want to live. WATCH: A bike ride through Funen Park, arriving at Funen Blok K at the end. The building has a striking appearance in the neighborhood that sets it apart from the rest of the development.

Redefining the connection between the building and landscape is a complex issue that can be expressed differently in every site. Opening up a building to the outside is a unique way to connect residents to their living environment while putting emphasis on the context of a site. Funen Blok K is a project that achieves a sense of continuity between the landscape and building, providing a seamless transition from living to recreating. We should never fall back on traditional residential design, but keep adding innovative ways of thinking about housing to create exciting and unique experiences for the user. That is what landscape architecture is all about.

  • Would you want to live in this development? How do you think it could be improved? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Raoul Kramer

Funen Blok K. Photo credit: Maarten Bezem

Full Project Credits For Funen Blok K

Project Name: Funen Blok K Design: 1999 / 2006 Completion: 2009 Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands Area: 1,600 m² Budget: €2,500,000 Designers: NL Architects Team: Pieter Bannenberg, Walter van Dijk, Kamiel Klaasse, Mark Linnemann Collaborators: Caro Baumann, Jennifer Petersen, Niels Petersen, Holger Schurk, Misa Shibukawa, Rolf Touzimsky Client: IBC Vastgoed / Heijmans Structural Engineers: Ingenieursbureau Zonneveld bvMechanical engineers: Sweegers en de Bruin bv Mechanical Engineers: Sweegers en de Bruin bv Building Physics: Cauberg Huygen Contractor: IBC Woningbouw Amersfoort bv Re-Design: 2006 Project Architect: Gerbrand van Oostveen Collaborators: Jung Hwa Cho, Chris Collaris, Florent le Core, Gert Jan Machiels Client: Heijmans Vastgoed bv Structural Engineers: Berkhout Tros Bouwadviseurs Mechanical Engineers: Nieman Adviesburo Contractor: Heijmans Bouw Almere Get Social with NL Architects: Website: www.nlarchitects.nl Facebook: www.facebook.com/nlarchitects Blog: www.nlarchitects.wordpress.com Recommended Reading:

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