The Crystal House store project by MVRDV architecture began through a request of Warenar to design the new Chanel flagship store located on the PC Hoofstraat in Amsterdam, combining both international architecture and Dutch heritage. The store is of course located on the only luxury brand street in Amsterdam, previously being primarily residential.
The firm wanted to represent the original building found on site, preserving the street elevation, through an innovative and extensive use of glass.
The original design of the façade is mimicked by a near full-glass brick layer all the way to the details of brick layers, window frames and positioning, yet it stretched vertically to conform with the new zoning laws of the city and also provide a larger interior space.
Crystal House’s glass brick façade stretches upwards eventually breaking up and mixing with the traditional terracotta brick façade of the apartments [complying with the City’s rules of aesthetics], thus providing the effect that the top floor of the building is floating above the shop floor.
This design aspires to present a solution to the local character loss of shopping districts globally; as globalization of retail tends towards the homogenization of luxury brand shopping streets.
Finally, the new store design offers a needed contemporary window surface whilst sustaining the architectural individuality and character. The result is a flagship store that hopes to stand prominent among other stores.
“We said to the client, ‘Let’s bring back what will be demolished but develop it further’” explains Winy Maas, architect and co-founder of MVRDV. “Crystal Houses make space for a remarkable flagship store, respect the structure of the surroundings and bring a poetic innovation in glass construction. It enables global brands to combine the overwhelming desire of transparency with a couleur locale and modernity with heritage. It can thus be applied everywhere in our historic centres.” (MVRDV, 2016)
Once the initial idea was conceived, MVRDV went on to work with many partners in order to develop the technologies to make the project a reality. The solid glass bricks were cast and crafted individually by Poesia in Resana [close to Venice]. Further research was handed to Delft University of Technology who partnered up with ABT engineering firm and contractor Wessels Zeist. This partnership provided the development of fabrication techniques and structural solutions. A high-strength, transparent, UV-bonded adhesive was created to ‘cement’ the glass bricks together by Delo Industrial Adhersices [located in Germany] to avoid the use of traditional mortar.
The construction site resembled a laboratory during the construction process with about 6-10 specialists working daily for a year in place. Due to the delicacy of the materials, high accuracy and expert craftsmanship was demanded, thus the technical team remained on site throughout the entire process. This was a prototype construction, therefore, new tools and construction methods had to be developed such as laboratory grade UV-lamps, high-tech lasers, even ‘lower-tech’ full-fat Dutch milk was utilized as it proved to be the ideal liquid with its transparency to function as a reflective surface for the first brick layer leveling. In spite of the sensitive appearance the Delft University of Technology team ran all strength tests and proved that glass-constructions such as this is much stronger than concrete. For example: the full glass architrave is able to endure a force up to 42,000 Newton [that is two large SUVs].
The new construction methods developed on this project created new opportunities for future building, i.e. minimization of waste materials. In fact all of the glass materials used are recyclable. Additionally, waste materials [imperfect glass bricks] were either melted down and repurposed or re-molded. Finally, once the building itself [especially the façade] has reached the end of its life span, the entire façade can be dismantled and melted down to be used again. However, the only exception on this plan is the added security elements of the façade, i.e. the concrete ram-raid plinth, masked by the translucent and reflective materials to reinforce the structure and allow the building to withstand the force of a car crush. In the event of any damage a repair-protocol was developed for the replacement of individual bricks.
Renewable sources were selected to meet the energy requirements needed with the nearly all glass façade. For this reason the building is designed around a heat pump of the ground with pipes running as deep as 170m underground achieving optimal indoor climate year-round. This was a critical element in the project as it deals with sophisticated and delicate detailing while simultaneously perusing the right energy balance.
Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries with Gijs Walker, Mick van Gemert, Marco Gazzola, Renske van der Stoep and Luca Antonio Coco
Watering Mans & Van Dijk Wim watering Mans, Arjan Bakker, Tuğrul Avuçlu
Manufacturer glass bricks:
Poem (brand of glassware Resanese) Ivano Massarotto
Importer of Delo glue:
Siko: Rob Janssen
Siko: Rob Janssen
Wessels Zeist: Robert van der Hoeven, Richard of Ende, Marco and Ronald Of Dolls
Brouwer&Kok: Paul Brouwer
ABT: Rob Nijsse
Delft University of Technology: Frederic A. Veer, Faidra Oikonomopoulou, Telesilla Bristogianni
Municipality aesthetics commission:
Wealth: Charlotte ten Dijke, Ellis van den Hoek, Natasha Hogen, Patrick Koschuch, Alexander Pols, Gus Tielens, Marcel van Winsen, Pippin Diepenveen
Crystal Houses the movie was created by Robert Jan Westdijk for Warenar Real Estate with the help of people and companies involved in creating Crystal Houses.