Sarphatistraat Offices | Steven Holl Architects

Architects: Steven Holl Architects
Location: Amsterdam, 
Local architect: Rappange & Partners
Project year: 1996 – 2000
Photographs: Paul Warchol

In Amsterdam, on the Singel Canal, this renovated building is the former federal warehouse of medical supplies. The main structure is a four-storybrick “U” merging internally with a new “sponge” pavilion ont he canal. While the exterior expression is one of complementary contrast (existing brick adjacent to new perforated copper), the interior strategy is one fusion.

The porous architecture of the rectangular pavilion is inscribed with a concept from the music of Morton Feldman’s “Patterns in a Chromatic Field”. The ambition to achieve a space of gossameroptic phenomena with chance-located reflected color is especially effective at night when the color patches paint and reflect in the canal.

The layers of perforated materials, from copper on the exterior toply wood on the interior, contain all services such as lighting, supply, and return air grilles. The perforated screens developed in three dimensions are analogous to the Menger sponge principle of openings continuously cut in planes approaching zero volume.

“Chromatic Space” is formed by light bounced between the building’slayers. At night, light trapped between screens sometimes appears as thick floating blocks of color. At other times the passing sun creates a throbbing color wash or moving moiré patterns.
The complex is entered through the original 20th-century brick courtyard. Passing through the interior reveals gradually more porous spaces until reaching the Menger sponge pavilion overlooking the canal. While the major portion of 50,000 square-foot project is workspace for the social housing company’s employees, the large sponge space is open to receive all uses from public gatherings to performance events. Given back to the community, the immediate canal edge has a new boardwalk.

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