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The monofunctional gallery flats on the dyke are widely seen as an icon of the 1960s and 1970s, a period when people believed that Delfzijl would flourish as the leading port city of the North of the Netherlands. The tallness of the flats and their location alongside the dyke offer a unique experience of light and vista over the sea and the Wierde landscape.
The monofunctional gallery flats on the dyke are widely seen as an icon of the 1960s and 1970s, a period when people believed that Delfzijl would flourish as the leading port city of the North of the Netherlands. The tallness of the flats and their location alongside the dyke offer a unique experience of light and vista over the sea and the Wierde landscape.

The project is a response to a shrinking population. The starting point for the design is a strategy that plays into the changing circumstances and into the stories of residents and other people involved.
The project is a response to a shrinking population. The starting point for the design is a strategy that plays into the changing circumstances and into the stories of residents and other people involved.

The spatial potential of the opened-up shell presents options for new initiatives such as a hospice in the upper part of the block
The spatial potential of the opened-up shell presents options for new initiatives such as a hospice in the upper part of the block

Creating additional openings in the one-sided gallery creates space for the experience of light and vistas
Creating additional openings in the one-sided gallery creates space for the experience of light and vistas

The spatial potential of the opened-up shell presents options for new initiatives such as a hospice in the upper part of the block
The spatial potential of the opened-up shell presents options for new initiatives such as a hospice in the upper part of the block

Reutilized window frames and glazing form the basis of a new framework for light and vistas
Reutilized window frames and glazing form the basis of a new framework for light and vistas

Sustainability through a self-supporting energy and water system and an innovative recycling scheme for local building and demolition materials
Sustainability through a self-supporting energy and water system and an innovative recycling scheme for local building and demolition materials




PROJECTINDEX
 
ATTRACTIVE EMPTINESS
Academie van Bouwkunst Groningen
ARCHITECTURE

An adaptive beacon on the Ems estuary
A block of postwar gallery flats in Delfzijl-Noord gains a new purpose thanks to an innovative way of dealing with vacant buildings. The project is a response to a shrinking population. The starting point for the design is a strategy that plays into the changing circumstances and into the stories of residents and other people involved. The experience of vista, light and landscape, combined with the play of sunlight through the empty shell of the block of flats, are the principle themes in the visual realization of the dialogue between the present emptiness and the new.
‘... When the sun is low in the sky, the sea takes on that silvery sheen. Standing in the wind with the murmur of the sea in my ears, I feel like a bird flying high above it all.’
Mr. Reint Nienhuis (81), Dijkzicht Flats 8th floor no. 345

In the postwar expansion suburb of Delfzijl-Noord you experience not only the space of the sea and of the characteristic Wierde (‘terp’) landscape, but a depressing prevalence of vacant dwellings caused by the inexorable population decline. The monofunctional gallery flats on the dyke are widely seen as an icon of the 1960s and 1970s, a period when people believed that Delfzijl would flourish as the leading port city of the North of the Netherlands. The tallness of the flats and their location alongside the dyke offer a unique experience of light and vista over the sea and the Wierde landscape.

The chief points of departure for the design are to respect the existing building and to offer an alternative to demolition or expensive refurbishment. Interviews with occupiers of the flats, other local residents and experts provided a basis for research-by-design into the possibilities for a ‘new emptiness’.

Six design interventions for the Dijkzicht flats form the start of a cyclic transformation process. The concepts function as a rhizome, an underground root system, and are independently viable. As with rhizomes, the mutual entanglement of the different concepts gives rise to a symbiosis in which the whole system is coherent and hence highly robust.
1 A self-organizing landscape on the basis of dynamic waterway and dyke management binds the fragmented area behind the dyke to form the basis for a unique ecological experiential landscape.

2 Opening up the shell of the block of flats at the lower floor levels produces a large, publicly accessible basement and helps integrate the building into its surroundings.

3 On the upper floors, the narrow, one-sided gallery is further opened up visually to create space for the experience of light and vistas.

4 A new routing scheme through the block of flats, inspired by the paths linking the nearby terp villages, creates a bond between the landscape, the flats and the residents. A new public ‘experience route’, meandering through the changing new landscape and the publicly accessible basement, connects the landscape and the building. Transformation of the existing stairwell gives rise to a new semi-public route with communal spaces for residents.

5 A self-supporting energy and water system, together with the innovative reutilization of local building and demolition waste, provide for sustainable modifications.

6 The spatial potential of the opened-up shell offers further opportunities for new initiatives. The insertion of a small-scale hospice answers to a frequently-voiced request from older residents for the possibility to spend their last days enjoying the tranquil view from the upper floors.

Attractive Emptiness does not aim at a solution for the problems of population decline, but illustrates a new outlook on the gallery flats and their surroundings. The objective is to engage the participation of the local authorities and the residents in an adaptive transformation process, in this case turning an icon of a bygone era into an architectural beacon for a new Delfzijl-Noord.