Tallest Wood-Framed Building in the Netherlands Wins a WAN Award

© FRANTZEN et al. © Luuk Kramer. FRANTZEN et al. © Luuk Kramer

There is a lot to love about Patch22, the tallest wood building in the Netherlands, which just won a World Architecture News Residential award as best building of 2016.

patch22 exterior

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The 100 foot tall, seven storey building in an Amsterdam industrial area is designed by Tom Frantzen and has a wood structure, although the floors “have a concrete-like appearance.” The ceilings are high (4 meters or 13 feet floor to floor). The judges at WAN liked this, writing:

4m floor to ceiling heights allow the building to function for commercial or residential use. To avoid objections to change of use, a new kind of land-lease contract was drawn up in cooperation with the city. It appears to have created an ‘attractor’ or beacon which will contribute to stimulating development in the area.
floor detai

© FRANTZEN et al

The units are sold unfinished, and completely open. It has raised floor system so that owners can get into the floor for wiring and plumbing where they want it. This allows it to be used for living and working “so that the building will still be cultivated with love over 100 years.”

Patch 22 open building

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This is beyond the normal in flexible design, it is designed with the principles of “open building”, as developed by John Habraken in the 60s, “in which he separates the frame of a building, the outer walls and structure, from the content, the internal division walls and house related installations.” Floors are designed to take twice the normal loads, and the slimline floor system is adaptable and accessible.

apartment detial interior

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As is standard with heavy timber buildings, “Fire regulations were met with by simply enlarging all the wood dimensions. In case of fire the outer layer of wood can burn up and will protect the structurally necessary wood by charring for up to 120 minutes. It is the first apartment building in the Netherlands to use this approach and therefore to make it possible to experience the atmospheric qualities of wood in a high-rise building.”

interior apartment

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There do not appear to be sprinklers, which is surprising in a new wood building of this height. And there is a Catch22 to the Patch22: it isn't really all wood. The floors are described as having a “concrete-like” finish and in fact are a concrete system, described by the architect:

Slimline floor

© Slimline

...a prefabricated steel-concrete system, the so-called “Slimline” floor. Off course our initial idea was to build also the floors mainly in wood, with a Holzbeton- decke, a combination of wood and concrete. Due to the fire protection actions this wood/concrete floor unfortunately would become too expensive and we had to decide for the Slimline system.
big span inteiror

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The slimline system may compromise the all-wood concept, but it is pretty interesting all on its own, handling very long spans. Judges certainly liked the wide open spaces:

“It’s spectacular. There’s a lovely story in terms of flexibility and personally I really like the interiors which are ‘super cool’. It feels like they’ve made a warehouse and converted it which creates wonderful light, space. It is striking and is a beacon for new generations.”
Patch22 long view

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The architect, who also acted as the real estate developer on the project, noting that they started the project right after the real estate crash.

At that time the Buiksloterham was an industrial area with some vacant lots and not attractive at all. In 2009 the housing market in Amsterdam had collapsed due to the financial crisis and we thought it would be impossible to develop a project for ordinary people in an ordinary way...We decided to develop a special project for special people; XXL work & dwelling lofts build in wood with very flexible floor plans and off course, as sustainable as possible
green features

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There are other green features, including solar panels on the roof and a biomass heating system that burns wood pellets.

It is unusual to see a concrete floor system on a wood frame, (and they seem to seriously downplay it, to the point of saying on the building’s website that it is “The choice to carry out the entire building in wood”.) It’s unusual to see architects build such big buildings as real estate developers, and it is most unusual to see such flexibility in the planning and to see the ideas of John Habraken actually put into wood and concrete. Nice work by Tom Frantzen.

tub on balcony

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And really, what's not to love about a bathtub on the balcony.