For my first weekend in Amsterdam, I visited Utrecht, a small city just 20 minutes east of Amsterdam. Noticed that the city is based out of canal system similar to Amsterdam.
... but much smaller in scale and rather established in parallel to the river.
According to wikipedia, the city consists of two major elements, the downtown historical area and the university complex.
Utrecht University Complex
Even though Utrecht University is known for one of the oldest university in the country, the whole complex is proliferated with newly built structures. Walking through the main avenue feels like in the middle of a life-sized architect's playground.
The high school building greets the visitor with very colorful and very graphic horizontal facade. The design is rather to be considered as 2 dimensional surface treatment, as a strategy to animate boring utilitarian modernist building massing. Some horizontal elements also running through the windows, breaking the boundary of floor slabs and giving different perception on how many floors the building has. Similar intent as such reminds me of Simmons Hall in Massachusetts by Steven Holl.
Utilizing graphic image rasterized onto the glass frit pattern. The whole building mass is wrapped with this typical curtain wall module. This gesture gives the impression of emphasizing the volumetric presence of the building. Pretty interesting experiment on glass facade. However, I was not quite sure with the intention on using image of bamboo (I assume it is) and also obvious repetitive image. I am assuming there is an effort to create etherial facade surface in a simple and affordable way. If so, that is quite smart! :)
Again, patterning on facade. Achieved in a very simple way. Altering between 2 types of facade pattern. In each floor there are up to 3-4 typical wall panel and being played out quite beautifully. Furthermore, the use of different color of curtains on each floor create gradient that adds another layer of complexity, allowing the eyes to stray away from recognizing the repetitive wall pattern.
A little bit tucked away from the main avenue is this small structure by UNStudio done in early 2000. I personally quite fancy the materiality of this project. Interesting clash between glass with printed digital frit pattern and rough cast in-situ exposed concrete. The play of massive and light in the facade is the expression of the building program. Pretty modernist approach.
Very expressive facade, again, similar strategy by super-imposing an image of cloud onto the facade. In order to create excitement on the boring repetitive facade of the modular unit; graphical imagery is introduced by pixel mapping it through porcelain tiles. Variation is achieved through subtle gesture on laying out the tiles in horizontal and vertical fashion,
I didn't expect to see this protrusion object cantilevered out from a rather straightforward building. This surprise moment adds up with the odd geometry of the object that gets bigger as it protrudes out, giving the impression of defying the law of gravity.
This project is actually outside the campus complex. However, I am so staggered by the extreme cantilever. The building massing is basically two long identical boxes sitting on top of each other. The top massing is actually cantilevered on both side with only 1/7th of the length touching the podium. Stunning!
I really like the fact of having bicycle as the typical public transportation mode. Apart from being green and environmental friendly, biking in the city is really enjoyable especially in the beautiful setting of downtown Utrecht. There is a certain intimacy of biking where you are always directly interact with your surrounding, experience as such is impossible in driving a car.
I stumble upon this old Citroen in the downtown plaza and it turns out the car is quite an important artifact in car manufacturing industry. The aesthetic of the exterior is indeed very utilitarian. However, this is one of the aspect that I miss in current car design. Car manufacturing technology has developed to an extent that material and fabrication method is conceived under all the cosmetic aero body panels. Somehow it's relieving to see honesty of material and fabrication was expressed in car design back then.
Dom tower currently becomes a tourist attraction and landmark for the city. Its presence for the downtown urban area is however, insignificant. The unfortunate event in 1674 causing the perception of Dom tower is sort of misplaced. The plaza besides it is where the nave was supposedly there, it is rather undefined. There is though, an underground museum, DOMunder underneath, apart from the collapsible entry, the rest of the space is blank. Maybe there is an opportunity to consider redefining the historic plaza.. Very tricky and sensitive though.