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12 Sep 2017

OMA hired to convert Amsterdam prison into civic and cultural realm
BY Kim Megson

Bijlmerbajes was built in the southeast of the capital in the 1970s, and the complex’s six linked towers have become a city landmark

Bijlmerbajes was built in the southeast of the capital in the 1970s, and the complex’s six linked towers have become a city landmark
photo: Robota, courtesy OMA

International architects OMA have been selected by the Dutch government to transform a former prison into a cultural and civic space for Amsterdam.

Bijlmerbajes was built in the southeast of the capital in the 1970s, and in the intervening decades the complex’s six linked towers have become a city landmark. As Amsterdam has expanded in all directions, they have gradually become the geographic centre of its newest urban districts.

The prison is now being redeveloped by a team lead by AM Real Estate. OMA are masterplanning the 75,000sq m (807,300sq ft) site, and will also design a significant portion of the 135,000sq m (1.4 million sq ft) pockets of development. Other collaborators include architects FABRICations and LOLA Landscape, who will transform the prison’s courtyards and gardens.

“In the masterplan, the island character of the prison enclosed by walls is conceptually preserved, yet linked at several positions through new pedestrian and cycle bridges,” said OMA in a design statement. “The Bajes Kwartier will become a largely car-free environment, with gardens and areas for recreation and fitness.”

The reuse of building materials is a key part of the redevelopment plans. Prefabricated elements from the existing walls will be reused as cladding for new residential buildings; prison bars will be used as balustrades; and the cell doors will become the edge panels for the new pedestrian bridges.

The land and the buildings of Bijlmerbajes currently belong to the Dutch government, but will be sold to AM Real Estate.

The redevelopment project is being led by OMA partners David Gianotten and Reinier de Graaf, and project architect Mariano Sagasta. It is scheduled to begin in early 2018.



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