Tradition and innovation in MVRDV’s Crystal Houses



Store, Condos,


MVRDV transforms the traditional architecture of the city of Amsterdam in a building made of glass brick

Tradition and innovation in MVRDV’s Crystal Houses 
MVRDV’s Crystal House in Amsterdam combines traditional style with advanced technology.
Warenar, the driving force behind the initiative, wanted MVRDV to design a building combining Dutch building traditions with modernity, and so the construction was redesigned allocating a part of its area to residential development (220sqm) and the rest to commercial development (620 sqm).
A vertical steel structure with floor slabs made of corrugated sheet metal and concrete turned out to be the best solution for quickly constructing a new building in which the key to the project as a whole is the façade. The existing building with its gabled roof and classic layout was not too different from the classic style of the city; the problem was how to relaunch the building and create a flagship image for its financier’s future inventions in the construction industry. MVRDV came up with the brilliant idea of recreating a glass façade without using regular laminated glass, which would have prevented them from reproducing the classic local architectural style.
The idea was to dematerialise the façade, using the same dimensional construction element, the brick, but in a different formal and structural version, a technology that not only minimises scrap, as it is 100% recyclable, but permits reuse of the material the façade is made of once it has been demolished. Raising the building by one floor permitted recalibration of its proportions, proposing a façade similar to the adjacent ones and blending the new in with the old through an ironic, provocative architectural operation, with a large dose of modern technology inside: geothermal heating systems penetrate 120 m down into the ground to control the indoor climate in response to the Dutch weather.

Fabrizio Orsini

Architect: MVRDV
Principal-in-charge: Winy Maas Design Team: Gijs Rikken, Mick van Gemert, Marco Gazzola, Renske van der Stoep and Antonio Luca Coco
Copyright: MVRDV 2018 – (Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs, Nathalie de Vries) Partners Co-Architects: & Van Dijk Wim Gietermans, Arjan Bakker, Tuğrul Avuçlu
Manufacturer glass bricks: Poesia (brand of Vetreria): Ivano Massarotto
Importer of Delo glue: Siko - Rob Janssen
Contractor: Wessels Zeist - Robert van der Hoef, Richard van Ende, Marco and Ronald Van de Poppe
Constructor: 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, Pepijn Diepenveen


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