Buro Harro envisioned an entirely artificial little piece of landscape with subtle humour and incredible craftsmanship. The landscape of the dutch dunes, with its vegetation, essentially acts as a small biodiversity generator. Water retention is hidden under the sand on the roof, and all the necessary technicalities are nicely put out of sight. The wooden hut gives it a relaxed, ‘holiday-ish’ mood. It is a ‘fragment’, a pocket landscape that offers more than enough clues that will transport you to a beach. The wind comes as the magic dust that makes this sandy roof garden come to life as one can be drawn into the feeling of being in the dunes … while taking a swim! Witty and smart!- from the award statements
On the roof of this nature-inclusive apartment block ‘Groenmarkt’, in the heart of Amsterdam, you can swim in between the dunes. Here, bees buzz, seagulls cry and the background noise of the city is like the rustling of the sea. Feels like a holiday, every day.
The environmental challenges we face nowadays are numerous. Renewable energy, food production, water storage, biodiversity, capturing co2– it all needs space and in the meantime, the world population grows and grows so it seems the world becomes smaller. You might wish we had an extra world. Well, the good news is: we’ve got one! Just look up! Not all the way to Mars, there’s a world to win on our roofs. Just like all the other (Dutch) cities, the Amsterdam rooftop landscape is almost completely unused. Why?
Well, the Dutch climate isn’t particularly known for its good weather. We don’t have a tradition of flat roofs, collecting rainwater and being wonderful places to cool down in hot summers. We have a tradition of pitched roofs that get rid of the falling water as soon as possible. And the climate on the street is already often quite chilly, on the roof, it’s even worse. And because the roofs of Amsterdam’s City Centre are almost completely on the same height of about 15 m, on top of this city the Dutch, coastal winds blow freely.
So we asked ourselves: which landscape is fun, even with or maybe especially when the wind almost blows you away? It inspired us to bring in the ultimate landscape to enjoy with stormy weather: the coast. With wind-blown pine trees and a variety of indigenous plants growing in the dunes that are máde for these harsh, extreme and windy circumstances we created a landscape that comes as close as possible to the real thing. Maybe even a bit better: We planted plants that in our coastal dunes have become rare but are for sale at organic indigenous nurseries. We used sand from the sea, with shells and thus chalk in it, as the ideal substrate for the coastal vegetation. To prevent the dunes from blowing away at the very start we combined planting plants and sowing seeds in between at the same time, in spring, after winter storms. In a couple of months, the dunes were covered with blossoming real dune vegetation. All kinds of bees, butterflies and other insects found this new habitat right away. The well-known dune pioneer Ammophila arenaria is always used to fix the dunes and plays a major part but will slowly be outnumbered by the other species. The complete roof is covered by a water-collecting base (polder-roof) under the sand, that together with the meters-high dunes captures the rainwater and saves it for dry periods, as an artificial ground-water basin. A meandering path made of shells allows you to take a walk around and look over the city. A wooden fence as commonly used in dune areas protects you from falling down. The construction of those fences and all the ventilation pipes and installations that normally dominate the roof landscape are carefully integrated and made invisible in the technical design of this easy looking landscape.
In the middle of this water-absorbing dune landscape lies a 1,40 m deep swimming pool. A cool splash on hot summer days but also wonderful and warm when it rains and in winter times. It is surrounded partly by dunes with a wide view over the city, and partly by a bamboo – wooden terrace, that is ‘cut out’ in the higher dunes, with a big bench around it, and steps up to the pool level.
The beach pavilion is the place where inhabitants can enjoy this surrealistic roof landscape under all conditions. Read your newspaper on Sunday or celebrate your birthday. Relax in the sauna that is about to be installed in the small wooden house in the dunes. Take the stairs or elevator and end up in a completely different world, in the middle of the city.
The design for this and another nature-inclusive building, and the surrounding public space was all part of a tender by the municipality of Amsterdam in 2014. As a design team with two architects, Ronald Janssen Architecten and Bastiaan Jongerius Architecten, we designed this Groenmarkt-building as a building where people and the other nature live together. With this project, we prove that by building we don’t make the world and our available space smaller – we make it bigger. The roof is a lifted landscape, what we lose on the ground, we win in the air. The facades which are overgrown by plants and are inhabited by birds, insects and humans, are extra surfaces. It’s multiplying landscapes.
On the roof, everything is better. Sorrows become smaller, the moon becomes bigger, and conversations become deeper. And: there is the world to win that we really need. Combining that with this natural, holiday-landscape we like to bring people and nature together in an intense way, solving problems and celebrating life. That’s what we aim for as an office: Paradise Now.
Client : HBB Groep, Edwin Oostmeijer Projectontwikkeling BV.
Architecture offices involved in the design: Buro Harro, Ronald Janssen Architecten, Bastiaan Jongerius Architecten
Contractors: HBB, de Dakdokters & Bos Zwembaden and Wellness
Photography: Jeroen Musch
Project location : Amsterdam
Design year: 2015-2021
Year Built: 2021