A GRAVITY-DEFYING DEVELOPMENT
Size: 49 000 m²
Completed: July 2022
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Located on the outskirts of Amsterdam in the neighbourhood of IJburg Steigereiland, the gravity-defying, floating building Sluishuis reinterprets the classic courtyard typology for life on water. Following four years of construction, the mixed-use development by joint venture VORM/BESIX is officially completed. Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group and Barcode Architects, Sluishuis brings 442 zero-energy rental and owner-occupied apartments, a public rooftop garden and walkway, and a comprehensive water-quality programme with riverwalks and space for more than 30 houseboats.
Let’s see what makes this zero EPC big build such a remarkable architectural feat…
Location and design
In a fusion of water and city, Sluishuis extends the world-famous urban environment of Amsterdam into the IJ Lake – becoming a floating block that forms part of the downtown area. Located between the dense city and the vast landscapes on the edge of Amsterdam, the new Sluishuis mixed-use development is shaped by its complex surroundings – at once close to large infrastructure and small-scale urban settlements. The classic courtyard building is revitalised by two transformations: it fully embraces the idea of living on the water and appears different from every vantage point.
Towards the water’s side, the block is lifted up, rising from the river to form a large opening that brings water from the lake into the courtyard and daylight and views to the complex’s inner apartments. This gate also enables ships to enter and dock in the port-yard. So, in a sense, Sluishuis is a building inside a port, with a port inside the building. Towards the neighbouring urban district, the block steps down like a cascade of landscaped terraces, creating a natural transition from cityscape to smaller-scale, natural surroundings and inviting visitors to climb its roof to enjoy the panoramic view.
A promenade with public programmes winds around the building and continues into the water, forming an archipelago of islands with houseboats, mooring places, sitting decks, a sailing school, a restaurant, a water sports centre, and floating gardens. A public passage climbs the cascading terraces of the building, serving as a small rooftop street that eventually loops onto the very top of the building to create a viewing platform over the IJ Lake. The passage not only becomes a destination for visitors and neighbours, but also serves to connect the residential units to each other to create a unique, three-dimensional community between the residents of the building.
The silhouette of Sluishuis changes as one moves around the building. At one vantage point, it appears as the bow of a ship, reflecting the water below. From another, it looks like a vertical green community, inviting visitors to engage directly with it. And finally, the structure appears like a true urban block with street access, city liveliness, and neighbours, backdropped by the rest of Amsterdam.
The building’s material selection seeks to create contrast while still facilitating a connection with its surroundings. Natural materials maintain a rich and natural appearance, crafting a timeless look that will last for years to come. The façade’s abstract, untreated aluminium reflects the water and gives the structure a different appearance at any time of the day. Lastly, the stepped roof terraces, plus the jetty promenade are made of wood, giving Sluishuis a contrasting, tactile appearance.
The sustainability of Sluishuis is an integral part of the project. With an energy performance coefficient (EPC) of 0.00, Sluishuis generates more energy than it consumes. The building’s heating requirements are minimised by combining high-performance insulation techniques, triple glazing, and heat recovery from the ventilation systems and shower wastewater. Energy consumption is further reduced by a heat and cold storage (CHS) system in the ground for heating and cooling, in combination with a connection to the district heating system for peak times. The remaining energy consumption for heating, heat pumps, ventilation, and LED lighting is fully compensated by approximately 2200 m² of solar panels, to which an entire floating island adjacent to the project is dedicated.
The development team of Sluishuis paid particular attention to greenspace and water collection. Designed by BIG Landscape, the front sides and the inner harbour of the building feature gardens with local plant species. The greenery runs across the roof terraces up into integrated planters, creating a vibrant green atmosphere over time. The carefully designed landscape also stimulates flora and fauna with a bird island. With strong architecture, new housing typologies, high-quality outdoor spaces, and a breath-taking view over the IJmeer, Sluishuis forms a welcoming entrance to Amsterdam IJburg.
MEET THE TEAM
Client: VORM, BESIX Real Estate Development and Building Consortium BESIX Nederland
Architects: Barcode Architects, BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group
Landscape architects: BIG Landscape
Engineers: Van Rossum, DWA, BIG Engineering
Building physics: Buro Bouwfysica
Sustainability: BIG Sustainability, Klimaatgarant, DWA
Partners in charge: Bjarke Ingels, Finn Nørkjær, Andreas Klok Pedersen, Dirk Peters
Project managers: Jeppe Langer and Robbert Peters
Concept design leads: Dimitrie Grigorescu, Jan Magasanik
Developers: VORM, BESIX Real Estate Development and BESIX Nederland
Photographer: Ossip van Duivenbode
Bjarke Ingels Group