UK/NL A Building in Amsterdam Harbour

UK/NLA building in Amsterdam harbourTony Fretton- www.tonyfretton.co.ukThe site for the project is a small island in the, an area of water between the railway line and shore. It can be seen as a panorama on http://www.panoramsterdam.com/panos/oosterdok-nemo.htmlBefore the construction of the railway and the nearby Centraal Station in the 19th century, the area was part of the working docks in the central city, bordering the River Ij , Amsterdam\'s trade route to the North Sea and distributing goods inland by the city canal system.In the early 1980s the Oosterdok was the subject of a design competition the results of which were never realised. At the present time the water and shore are occupied by isolated buildings, casual and temporary activities and sites for planned commercial development, linked by a series of floating pontoons and bridges. From the bus stand near the Centraal Station a pontoon leads past the Botel (a moored liner used as a low cost hotel) and a floating Chinese restaurant to a former post office mail sorting building. This building is the temporary home of the Stedelijk museum (the state museum of modern art) while its building in the centre of the city is being reworked. The Stedelijk has taken 2 floors for exhibition space and temporarily renamed the building as the Stedelijk CS (Stedelijk Centraal Station) (http://www.stedelijk.nl/).Design offices have occupied the rest of the floors and there is a very vibrant restaurant located in the top storey looking over the city.This building will be replaced in the near future with a development of mixed use and style. A new bridge will link the development to the island that is the site for the project.From the Stedelijk CS a bridge leads across the water to Renzo Piano\'s Nemo Science centre (http://www.e-nemo.nl/) that looks like a melancholic copper schooner. Beyond this is Arcam, the Amsterdam architecture Centre http://www.arcam.nl/ housed in a late 90s mini-blob http://www.archined.nl/archined/BlobjeaanhetOoste.0.html and a range of Naval buildings that will be redeveloped in the future in the same way as the rest of the Oosterdok.The island which is the site looks out over all of this to the south, and to an embankment carrying the railway and highway to the north, above which the river Ij and a ferry terminal can be seen, along with the new concert hall by Danish architects Nielsen Nielsen and Nielsen and a whole host of other recent commercial buildings of varying quality.The island is currently occupied by a wall-climbing centre housed in a wittily angled plastic box, and some friendly old houseboats, all of which in this program should be removed.The visual and cultural richness of the site combined with its slight remoteness suit the aims of this design studio. Its qualities can be understood from photographs, since there will be no site visit. It is both mundane and fantastical.The site has interesting outlook on all sides, a powerful context of buildings, infrastructure and water and is visible at a distance. The Netherlands is a place where architecture can be very direct about social possibilities and style.The program is for a mixture of uses to be designed to produce a local social environment. The intention is that you set aside theory and work with architectural building as your means, starting with how you see your building in relation to the site and locale, what you make of the program, how big you think the building should be and what it should look like, how it is constructed and what it can say and do.But of course these things are not straightforward, solid or factual. They are based on cultural understandings and agreements, often of the type that we use in daily life to communicate in words objects and gestures.How they can be understood and used in desi