From May 30th to June 5th 2007 Hiroki Matsuura (maxwan a+u) held a workshop on “public space” in the famous chocolate factory “Red October” in Moscow. The workshop was accompanied by a lecture featuring some of the office’s projects. A summary follows.
De Gasperi Housing development, Italy
The “De Gasperi housing development” was a competition held in 2005 by the city of Naples. After the 2nd phase of the competition, we were awarded first prize and are expecting the start of construction next year. The location of the site is about 6km to the east from Naples city centre, in an adjacent outskirt of Mt. Vesvio. The size of the site is about 5ha and the aim of this project is to regenerate the area, which was built as a high-density post-war residential area in 1950.
The required program for this project is: 114 dwellings for 627 residents with extra facilities such as retail, post office, maternal school and sport facilities. The existing buildings are to be demolished. When we deal with urban plans especially focused on the regeneration of existing neighbourhoods, we normally first investigate the most pressing problems of the current condition. And on the other hand, we also try to include the positive resources of the current condition. This approach helps to focus upon where the majority of money should be spent in the new development.
The first problem is the existing street structure with a lot of cul-de-sac situations. This problem should be solved by fluently opening up the area into the surroundings. The second problem is the layout of housing blocks. The current layout has one orientation to array all the housing blocks along, although the shape of the site is highly irregular and triangular. This means that the grid-like regular building placement creates quite a lot of left-over spaces along the irregular shape of the site boundary.
Our proposal is to align each housing block according to its most prominent adjacent circumstance such as a main street, main public space, a park, buildings in the neighbourhood or a railway track. This treatment results in creating more positively enclosed and shaped public spaces in the middle of neighbourhood. And these should be car-free public spaces, a feature that the current situation completely lacks.
The position of the local centre was easily determined because of the existing commercial street. We proposed a small piazza in combination with the local centre. The position of the maternal school was determined because of the existing large open space.
The housing block unit consists of two building volumes facing each other, with an inside court. The court space serves an opportunity of communal activities such as a safe playground for small children, a meeting place for neighbours, and as a shared landscape/garden. We decided to keep the existing site topography and large pine trees as much as possible.
Masterplan Leidsche Rijn, NL
In 1993 the founder of maxwan, Rients Dijkstra, was working at OMA as a project leader. At the age of 32, he suddenly became a Cinderella boy by getting this enormous masterplanning job.
The masterplan is an extension of the Dutch city, Utrecht, called Leidsche Rijn. It is the largest development site of what is called VINEX, the Fourth Bill on Spatial Planning in the Netherlands, a government bill that promotes the development of 1.1 million new houses by the year 2005.
The new city plan for 75.000 inhabitants is to include: 30.000 housing units in a wide range of densities, two local urban centres and one regional commercial centre; 700.000 m2 office space, 200 ha of business estate, 250 ha of park and landscaping, and numerous schools as well as health care facilities. The masterplan was made in 1994 and now, in 2007, the construction is about to finish.
Anamorfose Revisited, NL
The project “Anarmorfose revisited” is for the interior design of the Westerschelde Tunnel; with a length of 6km, it is the longest in the Netherlands. The tunnel is located at the southern end of the country, near to the border of Belgium.
Originally, Maxwan was asked to be a committee giving suggestions for the selection of the artwork for the interior of the tunnel. But we could not come across any truly interesting art work for this project, so we decided to show what we think is interesting – public art from a driver’s point of view. See the movie (wmv, 10MB).
This 60.000m2 design for a building complex consists of a hotel for computer servers, a power plant, as well as car-showrooms and offices. It is located along the A20 highway in Rotterdam.
An inbuilt 40 MW power plant provides power, excess electricity and heat will be sold to a neighbouring hospital. The functional core with the hotel/box storage/office programme is wrapped in a car-showroom skin.
Cars are often put on display in glass boxes on sites bordering highways. The idea is that passers-by get a good look at the goods behind the curtain wall, but in general the glass reflects more than it lets through. Maxwan’s proposal is a radical mutant of this worn-out typology: the glass façades are not parallel to the highway, but perpendicular to the sightlines of the approaching drivers; the cars are not behind glass, but on balconies; the curtain wall does not drop down vertically, but follows a saw-toothed profile, mirroring down sights of the exposed cars in a peepshow fashion. Higher up, where the servers hum, the saw tooth profile keeps sunlight from entering the overheated interior.
Design for a travelling exhibition entitled ‘Reality Machines’ that presents an overview of recent Dutch architecture, graphic design, fashion, product design and photography.
The main exhibition hall of the NAi (Netherlands Architecture Institute) in Rotterdam is turned into a bright showroom. Sockets, walls and showcases are avoided. The 120 selected designs hang from the edge of a lowered ceiling in the shape of a huge E. The work hangs from a rail conveyer as used in assembly halls. The exhibits move at the pace of a couple meters per minute, creating a slow parade of items across the hall and beside the long window facing the museum-park.
One could sit still and watch the whole show pass by in an hour. Or one could walk around and be surprised by the continuously changing arrangement and the unexpected combinations of objects. And sometimes, when when they walk slowly keeping pace with a piece, the visitors look like they are part of the object.