BLOCK 16 / THE WAVE

Apartments, Fitness, Almere NL, Project Team: René van Zuuk, Kersten Scheller, Bjorn Ophof, Marieke van den Dungen, Client: Almere Hart cv., Start of design: 1999-2002, Completion: 2002-2004, Area: 8.740 m², Volume: 25.602 m³, Building costs: €5.600.000

Block 16 is part of OMA's masterplan for the new prestigious city center of Almere. The autonomous, expressive block is distinctive in the urban landscape: the billowing, bulging end, serves as a landmark and gatekeeper for the harbor entrance. At the other end of the building, the movement is flattened, smoothened, and the volume fits in with the orthogonal structure of the nearby glass residential towers.

The block is situated on a basement car park (OMA design) serving as a pedestal. The elevated deck level, is occupied in part by the common entrance and the storerooms. The rest is a gym which continues on the parking level below, leading to a fitness café that functions autonomously, like an independent pavilion.

The design of Block 16 is based on an analysis of tunnel formwork constructions. This construction method is financially attractive for realizing large housing projects. The basic principal of tunnel formwork is the simultaneous casting of the floors and walls. Similar to extrusion techniques, this requires a fixed cross-section. It is customary that the tunnel length is also the same, creating a regular concrete skeleton. Variation in the length of the adjacent tunnels, breaks the monotonous pattern of the structure. The result is a wavy facade surface, providing the block with dynamic qualities. This unusual application of tunnel formwork implies a slight rise of the building costs, but produces a much more impressive result.

Block 16 is equipped with two central corridors, facilitating the occupants' access to the apartments. The living rooms of all the 49 apartments are facing the south and are orientated towards the waterfront. Stairs on the north side of the block connect higher or lower spaces. The main communal stairwell fills a seven-storey void, located behind the biggest bulge. The deviant function is furthermore revealed in the exterior by the strip of half sized cladding panels.

The cavities and the bulges in the facade all have a functional basis. The dent on the north side marks the entrance, while the bulging in the south facade is created by adding patios to some apartments.

Initially, a wooden facade cladding was planned, but turned out to be too expensive when receiving offers from contractors. A new solution was found by manufacturing facade elements that cover an entire tunnel section. The intention was to apply the elements in a weatherboard manner, securing an overlap on all sides. This is only possible if the panels in the vertical direction shift sideways, resulting in an unwanted diagonal grid in the elevation. Because of the adapted application of the weatherboard principle, the sides of the panels do not lie against each other. The resulting oversized gap is sealed with a different material, separating the elements from each other. This provides the building with two faces: smooth and wavy in one direction, rough and staggered in the other.

The silver-colored, anodized, aluminium cladding of the facade, combined with the continuously changing incidence of light, transfuses a varying identity to Block 16, giving it the appearance of a scaly creature.