Underground carpark and leisure centre ODE

Oosterdokseiland plan area, Amsterdam

The office of Erik van Egeraat drew up the urban masterplan for the Oosterdokseiland (Eastern Docks Island) near Amsterdam’s Central Station. The plan has a number of subdivisions, including a hotel, a library, a music conservatory, shops, housing, conference facilities and restaurants, designed by an international group of 11 architecture bureaus.

A carpark is planned beneath the complex and interconnecting all the buildings. There will also be a leisure centre occupying a number of underground levels. ZJA was asked to design the subterranean world of the urban plan, the garage and the leisure centre.
The carpark is 500 metres long and provides space for 1,700 cars and 2,500 bikes. The garage lies two storeys underground, about eight metres below ground level, as the storage space and the loading areas for the various buildings are situated at the basement level, which is not open to the public. The staircases between the carpark and the ground level must span two floors and are therefore relatively deep.

The challenge in designing an entire underground carpark of such enormous proportions is to create a sense of safety for visitors and make it easy for them to find their way. Elements from aboveground are repeated underground to aid orientation: the stony material of the retaining wall along the railway embankment, the water with fish on the side facing the dockside, and the materialization of the buildings above. The initial proposal was to turn the dockside wall of the carpark into one big aquarium with fish. In the current plans the aquariums have been replaced by large-scale projections of fish on the walls of the underground carpark.

The buildings and the carpark below are arranged on a fan-like grid. The structure of the carpark was designed in consultation with the various architects of all the individual buildings above. That demands a great deal of diplomacy and coordination. A central computer file on the Internet, to which all the parties can upload the latest state of affairs, serves as the basis for consultations between the parties. This means that everyone always has access to the most recent data.

The stairwells, potentially unsafe spaces, are under permanent video surveillance. The video images are not used simply to keep a check, but also to increase the sense of safety. The footage is transmitted directly to the screens at the staircase entrances and exits. The carpark’s users can see whom to expect on the stairs before entering the stairwell. The interior of the stairwells is painted a monochrome. This background colour makes it easy to use video montage techniques (chromakey) to isolate the people being filmed from their blue background. Images of these visitors can then be mounted amidst the projections of fish. The fish projected onto the screens at the entrance will make the access to the carpark more readily recognizable.

Client: MAB bv.
Project: 0291