Born of protest and consultation
Vehement protests arose over the municipal plans to build the underground railway through the Nieuwmarkt neighbourhood in the 1970s. Residents objected to what they saw as a disproportionate planning scale, and insisted on mixed, small-scale functions which would preserve the residential element. Several decades and several urban redevelopment plans later in 1992, the municipality and the residents finally came to an accord on the programme of urban functions, and on selecting our firm as the architects. The outer envelope of the construction area is a literal reflection of the things that most concerned the residents, the result being a highly serrated outline. Our master plan for Keizerstraat and its environs made a virtue out of necessity and took the irregularly indented building mass as its design theme. The principle also turned out to accord well with the fragmented, comfortably untidy character of the Nieuwmarkt neighbourhood and with the robust, block-like volume of the adjacent Flesseman Building (designed by Wijdeveld). The building materials and colours echo the historic features of the location. The project consists of an urban master plan comprising 16 private-sector units and 51 social-sector units, including dwellings for elderly residents needing dementia care, a small neighbourhood police station, and layouts for public space. The public space consists of a crèche garden, a small sports field and a neighbourhood square (Keizersplein) for children of various ages.
Our urban master plan respects the original street pattern. The street facade on Keizerstraat, which required an opening to admit sunlight to the crèche garden behind it, continues as a long garden wall with two trees. Visually extending the street facade in this fashion effectively repairs the gap created in the original building line. The police station is sited directly on the public plaza of Nieuwmarkt, thus avoiding any need for police traffic on the quiet Keizersplein, which was to be kept traffic-free by explicit request of the local residents.