WHAT architecture - London


Shops, Food Court, Parking, Housing (232 Units)
Scale55400 sqm
LocationKarspeldreef, Amsterdam Zuidoost, NL
ClientDe Principaal
Budget€ 34000000
Design Year2012

Project delivered with NL Architects as a partnership.

De Kameleon is a supersized housing block and a shopping centre with plenty of parking in the Bijlmermeer.

The Bijlmer is based on the ideas of CIAM: Light + Air + Space and strickt functional divisions. Traffic modalities were separated: the access for cars was placed on a higher level to allow unobstructed cruising for bikes and pedestrians. The Bijlmer is a vertical garden city; a beautiful park with 10 story housing blocks in a honeycomb structure. It features a splendid elevated subway track; maybe the only suitable backdrop for an R&B video in the Netherlands. For many reasons the Bijlmer failed; it is the one area in the Netherlands that was considered a ghetto… At the moment the area is going through a radical renovation process: an attempt is being made to make it “normal”, to turn it into a regular Dutch suburb. Standard low-rise housing is introduced that replaces the apartment buildings but also the green spaces in-between them. In spite of the new format, the Bijlmer remains exotic: it is the place to be for a sensational Roti or sundried Bats. De Kameleon is one of a series of buildings along the Karspeldreef, one of the main arteries in the area. It is quite a surprise that amidst this new ideology of the small scale such large new buildings are projected…

Kameleon is organized in horizontal slices. On ground floor is the new shopping centre. All shops are accessible directly from public space there is no collective interior: Kameleon is not a Mall. The supermarket, a bulky program with extensive impenetrable facades is embedded in smaller units that as such both differentiate and activate the “plinth”. There is one shortcut, The Passage, at 2/3rd of the length, creating an “8”. The 8 is good for circulation and good for business. From here an escalator connects to the next level, continuing the 8 in the 3rd dimension. On the 2nd floor is one more supermarket, easily accessible from the public parking on the same level. The parking is open to the sides allowing natural ventilation. Positioning the parking on top of the shops proofed cheaper than in a  basement. The parking is “charged” by the supermarket on one end and food court/fitness center on the other. Since these programs feature large floor to ceiling heights an extra parking level fits in. Here the residents will park their cars.

On top the parking is a very large garden. The garden is surrounded by a four story housing block containing 168 apartments. The side facing the Karspeldreef is continuous to protect the garden from street noise and to create an “urban wall”; the other side facing the typical hexagonal green space is punctured. The gaps can be used as playgrounds and for BBQ’s and establish relationships between the old and the new ground level.

On the lower level are apartments in one-and-a-half stories with direct access to the deck/garden. On the street sides are compact, single sided apartments. Both can be reached through a corridor on the 1st floor. The upper two levels contain flats that can be accessed through galleries. Winding stairs lead to the garden. The repetitive structure makes the project affordable. The rhythmic building bays of 8 meter and the parking and shopping grids correspond nicely. Every other carrying wall is extended to support the balconies create dynamic patterns. The elevated garden features 12 serious trees. And a river! A 10 story slab with 58 apartments rests on this flat Block. It creates a counterpoint to the horizontality and becomes a “ billboard” facing the subway. A Supersized window visually connects the elevated subway and the elevated garden.