Archive for June, 2009

La Grande Motte

June 25, 2009

For their summer issue the Swedish design and architecture magazine Rum asked us to suggest an inspiring holiday destination. Well here it is: La Grande Motte

La grande Motte

La Grande Motte is outlandish. It is one of the rare cities that is planned and designed from scratch by one single architect. Jean Balladur created a city of Ziggurats. A freak family of Pyramids. Différence et Répétition.

La Grande Motte opened in summer ‘68 as the corner stone of the largest state-sponsored tourist project in Europe. The central idea was to create 5 resorts that were to be set in green zones of protected natural coastline that would avoid the noxious ribbon-sprawl that poisoned many an oceanfront. (Shelley Baranowski and Ellen Furlough in Being Elsewhere)

La Grande Motte is a deeply inspiring experiment; it keeps you fantasizing continually on how to formulate a New City. A great place to read Italo Calvino.

La Grande Motte is optimistic. The so-called Rancine Mission, the organizational and ideological blueprint for the region as a whole, sets the ambition: La Grande Motte should “banish the common place”. It radiates a strong believe in the New that now seems to be absent in Europe. The idea to create a city from scratch in this time frame is unimaginable, but what could be more exciting than constructing a completely new urban environment?

La Grande Motte was invented by General de Gaulle in an attempt to counter the popularity of the cheap Spanish Costas. The site is in the Camargue, a swamp in Languedoc, known for the Flamants Rose (the pink flamingos) and surprisingly for the absence of mosquitoes. Thanks to an army of 150 ‘special agents’, the government successfully managed to eradicate the pest in spite of protests of local politicians. They claimed the mosquitoes help blood circulation and protect against rheumatism! According to the authorities this miracle was achieved in an environmentally friendly way. But it remains a mystery exactly how…

La Grande Motte could not ‘parasite’ on remarkable features in the landscape, it had to create them: the City is an artificial cliff. The repetitive pyramid shape seems to be beneficial in terms of the regular fierce wind speeds; it helps creating a pleasant climate.

La Grande Motte features three hectares of beach, 43.000 trees, 31 hectares of shrubs, 20 Km of pedestrians areas and more than 2700 hours of sunlight. Parks cover ¾ of the town!

La Grande Motte’s coherence is impressive, the difference sometimes disappointing, the variation superficial, ‘plastic’ almost, or too formal here and there. Obviously there were too many buildings to be invented at the same time… But often the inventive structures are seductive, sensationally sculptural, blissfully Futuristic.

La Grande Motte is a surreal experience. Loudspeakers on the promenades announce the activities of the day. La Grande Motte is a crossover between the Flintstones and the Truman show. Monsieur Hulot on designer drugs.

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What? No Pyramids?

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TV on the Balcony

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Stephan -Gold Medal- Schülecke

June 24, 2009

2 years 3 months

Another contract could not be prolonged:  now also Stephan had to leave the office. It is very frustrating to see him go after a long successful collaboration. Stephan worked on numerous projects, from Groninger Forum to Touwen and from Kameleon to Adelaar. In a way his unique Ausdauer and dedication ‘rescued’ the Spordtgebouw in Dordrecht. He played in important role in turning the project, that at some point seemed to spin out of control, into an unexpected beauty. Stephan so long!

Stephan -Gold Medal- Schülecke

Carwash for Free

June 23, 2009

In the orderly world of the suburb even trees can be a ‘nuisance’. In spring some species are notorious for dropping a sticky substance. Honeydew might cover your laundry or your car.

Also the local maintenance department might dislike particular kinds of trees. The amount of dead leaves or blossom create too much work, some types are too expensive or vulnerable or attract the wrong insects.

As Schie 2.0 revealed in their masterpiece called Viva Vinex  there is only one type of tree that performs well in all criteria. And of course only this über tree is deployed.

In the village of Someren in spring it ‘rains’ complaints about the Linden and Maple trees. The leaves exude a sweet, clingy substance that covers cars of the residents. For about 50 households there is no alternative parking spot available. Now the Alderman Willy Hanssen proposes in the ‘tree policy plan’ that the government pays for 8 visits to the carwash: 2.500 euro each year. Cheap compared to replacing the trees he says…

Sweet Street: Tausendfüßler

June 18, 2009

Jan Wellem Platz

joy ride

Drive-by Shopping

Halte Stelle

Happy Street








Tausendfüßler is an elevated road in the middle of Düsseldorf. The street has been ‘picked up’ to create a ‘bridge’ that allows cross relations in the underlying urban fabric. Drivers find themselves virtually in the atrium of the P&C for some drive by shopping.

The Jan Wellem Hochstraße was completed in 1962. The 500 meter long road was planned by Friedrich Tamms who also designed several bridges over the Rhine that are referred to as the Düsseldorfer Bridge Family.

The bridge appears light. The sweeping curves are majestic, the detailing of the so-called fish-belly shape is über elegant, the concrete beautiful. It is domesticated infrastructure,  the kind of road that you would like in your backyard. Happy street. But not much longer.

Although the Tausendfüßler is a monument since early nineties it is likely that it will be torn down. The ‘bridge’ will be replaced with a tunnel. The idea is that the tunnel will eliminate the ‘barrier’ created by this road on legs. But where would you rather be in a traffic jam?

Take-out: Pizzeria San Marco, Amsterdam

June 14, 2009

Pizzeria San Marco

Place your order here

Take-out on water level! They might have a delivery service too…

Ordos 100 at ART Basel

June 10, 2009


Today Ordos 100 opens at ART Basel, presenting 100 designs by 100 architects for a villa of 1000m2 in Inner Mongolia.

The exhibition is organized by Territorial Agency. In a way the show in Basel is a ‘home game’ abroad…

Parking Terminal

June 8, 2009







NL Party Blog

June 7, 2009



old boys

Kameleon lost its tail

roof with a view

Bouke Kapteijn has left the building… After 9 years as senior developer at housing corporation De Principaal he decided to move to another scale level: he now is a consultant for ‘area development’ at AT Osborn.

During his period as developer we collaborated on two projects: Touwen in the center of Amsterdam and Kameleon in the Bijlmer, now both under construction.  Before his period at De Principaal, we worked together on the implementation of RoofRoad, a residential project with roof top parking, a better version of Vinex, which in spite of Bouke’s support was aborted after 9-11.

Bouke knows how to communicate with architects. He is one. He combines his interest in typology and the financial logic behind it with sensibility for composition and materialization. It is a loss for De Principaal that is he is no longer part of the organization.

Bouke chose a spectacular setting for the reception: the new office of Open Source Amsterdam. OSA is an art route leading from the Kraaiennest metro station to the Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA train station. OSA features artist like Nicky Zwaan, Jennifer Tee and Thomas Hirschhorn! OSA is located in a ‘penthouse’ on top of the Kraaiennest parking garage, an overwhelming ‘lasagna’ of parking ramps, the ‘Titanic’ of multistory car parks, one of the few relics of the original Bijlmer.

Hotel Kyjev

June 5, 2009

During our visit to Bratislava for the opening of Modernice! the obvious place to stay was Hotel Kyjev: an all Travertine palace from the communist era. In Bratislava numerous buildings from this era are clad in this majestic natural stone. An early example is the splendid Hotel Devin. It is interesting that the most luxurious and sensuous material that we can imagine in Slovakia often is associated with oppression and shortage.

Since the natural stone is so abundant we informed weather it would actually be affordable, we were eager to deploy the material in our own projects. But it turned out the local quarry is now closed: there is no more blissful rock left…

The hotel was designed by Ivan Matusik and built between 1963 and 1973. The complex is composed out of an immense horizontal base containing lobby, banquet halls and shops and a vertical counter point, a suspended 15 story slab with the hotel rooms. A triangular department store sits next to it. The entire complex covered in natural stone. With many original details still intact. The transition from horizontal to vertical slab is very sexy: it is rounded with subtle fillet.

The lobby is a spacey room with a sensational concave baseboard: the Travertine floor turns into Travertine wall: Travertine limbo.

The Kyjev is a mathematical miracle: like in many hotels, the 13th is missing. I stayed at the top floor, the 15th but the tower slab actually counts 15 layers. There has to be a secret extra floor…

There are plans for replacing the powerful ensemble with new commercial urban substance. The dilemma of our profession is that hardly any new building would be able to match the qualities of the existing Kyjev. Thank God for the crisis: it will slow down the destructive developments. And hopefully will buy the Kyjev some time for ‘revaluation’.

Kyjev Hotel




piece de resistance


The Luna Night Club in the basement

Door to secret floor?


June 3, 2009

After 10 years of suspense Blok K is under construction. It was conceived in a ‘bubble’ but delivered in a crisis. And now the building is maybe in its most beautiful state.  With current and some former staff we went on a trip to check it out. Surprisingly it turns out the contractor is really enjoying the complexity of the project…

NL hard top

Aernout Mik?