Dutch Firms Embrace Sustainable Attitude

Events: Crossing Sustainability and Mobility, Lecture by Ton Venhoeven; Real Sustainability: New Buildings by SeARCH, Lecture by Bjarne Mastenbroek; Glimpses of Practice: New York/Amsterdam
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.07.11; 06.08.11; 06.09.11
Speakers: Crossing Sustainability: Ton Venhoeven — Founder, VenhoevenCS architecture+urbanism & Chief Government Advisor on Infrastructure, Kingdom of the Netherlands; Real Sustainability: Bjarne Mastenbroek — Director & Founder, SeARCH & Former Chairman, Royal Dutch Architecture League; Glimpses of Practice: Lex Van de Beld — Architect & Director, ONIX; Bjarne Mastenbroek — Director & Founder, SeARCH & Former Chairman, Royal Dutch Architecture League; Sam Dufaux — WORKac; Tobias Armborst — Interboro; Renee Schoonbeek — Director of Planning, Hudson Square Connection BID (moderator)
Organizers: ARCAM; in collaboration with the Center for Architecture, and Urban Progress
Sponsors: Underwriters: Stimuleringsfonds voor Architectuur, the Architecture Fund, Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; Sponsors: Priva; Proper Stok

(L-R): Amsterdam West by SeARCH; Jan Schaefer Bridge by VenhoevenCS architecture+urbanism; and bridge in the Netherlands designed by OAK.

(L-R): SeARCH; Venhoeven CS architecture+urbanism; OAK

“Sustainability is not a technique – it’s an attitude,” said architect Bjarne Mastenbroek, director and founder of Amsterdam-based SeARCH (Stedenbouw en ARCHitectuur). He conceives of projects as landscapes that connect architecture with the urban, interior with the exterior. Being Dutch usually implies an awareness of the scarcity of land, and a number of Dutch firms are addressing the issues in new, innovative ways.

Sustainability is about limiting oneself in terms of eating, housing, and traveling. At one end of the spectrum, Mastenbroek explained, is a 400,000-square-foot residence in Mumbai that has 27 floors, six floors of parking, three helipads, and a 50-seat cinema, all for a family of six. This is an example of opportunity, not of necessity. An example at the other end is a project his firm completed in the garden city of Amsterdam West. In spite of initial protests by locals, they decided to re-use and convert three concrete drums of a sewage treatment facility into a six-apartment dwelling with a penthouse; a water collection system; and storage space.

Currently on the boards, SeARCH has a project that is aiming to give a new definition to chalet topology. Atypical of hotels in St. Moritz, Switzerland, it is both integrated into the mountainside and faces the sun. The chalet will be geared to all types of guests, from five star hotel seekers to lodging for backpackers. There is even space for bovine guests (often cows are brought inside for the winter). Approximately 50 cows may reside there, providing heat, as well as supplying milk and cheese to the hotel.

In addition to heading up his Amsterdam-based firm, VenhoevenCS architecture+urbanism, Ton Venhoeven works as the chief government advisor on infrastructure for the Dutch government. He professes that one has to address demographic and sustainability issues when talking about infrastructure. One can live in the most sustainable house, but if he or she must drive a distance to get from place to place, it defeats the purpose. The paradox is that peripheral towns and cities are cheaper to live in. If we can improve connections to the city center, through various forms of infrastructure, people will be able to find work there and continue to live where they prefer.

As an outcome of the 400th anniversary of the Dutch discovering the Hudson River, Alex van de Beld, architect and director of ONIX, was invited by the City of Poughkeepsie to explore the possibility of designing a wood bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists on one bank of the river. As part of OAK (Onix Achterbosch Cooperation, a collaboration between ONIX and Achterbosch Architecture), the bridge is composed of sustainable Accoya wood, processed to make it almost imperishable — and a realization of the inter-connectivity of two cities and regions.