Technische Universiteit Delft
The project's title refers to our own design attitude. 'Architectural Obstinacy' proceeds from a non-obvious relationship between form and use. The architecture then takes on a more personal significance and is targeted at physical perception.
The proposed plan area is Nieuw West in Amsterdam. Dating from the 1950s, this spacious Modernist district was designed as a monocultural zone where everyone could enjoy the same living conditions. These days 40 per cent of its residents are migrants. The various groups - immigrant and indigenous, young and old - live alongside each other but without making proper contact. This results in boredom, indifference to the immediate environment and, ultimately, feelings of insecurity and criminal activity. We feel that a relationship exists between this lack of social ties and the scale, indeterminacy and continuity of the public realm.
This raises the question of how to introduce a new urban quality into Nieuw West. To this end, we focused on enhancing the encounters and confrontations between residents so that these may develop an understanding of each other. We looked at ways of using architecture to bring activities and groups together, without pinning down all such relationships but also without creating an environment where anything goes. This begs the question of what architecture can mean in a differentiated cultural context.
We gave architectural form to this stance with a comprehensive school in Nieuw West, extended with a boxing school and fighting arena in the same building. This mixes difference scales, time schedules, activity programmes and users so that the building is not associated with one activity alone. Unlike the other buildings in Nieuw West, lifted into space and giving the cold shoulder to the public domain, our design registers as a rock you can climb, an object you can touch. Its form defines several new places and activates the surrounding space of Nieuw West.
The mass of this 'rock' consists of clusters of classrooms. Passages hewn from the mass along the outer edge draw the public urban space into the school. This strategy locks the building into the square where all users, pupils, teachers, boxers and visitors converge. This contrast between introverted mass and open passages is palpably present in the way classrooms, passages and facade are fleshed out and detailed.
All told, our design presents an alternative to the tendency to subject schools to ever stricter control and turn them away from the street. Just this rapport with what is going on beyond it makes the school a place of social interaction where pupils can develop their own sense of responsibility, which is just as important beyond the school boundaries, if not more so.