La Cascade (Photo: Erwin van Amstel)
The Week of the Vacant Building is a workshop-based education programme in which students and tutors from a variety of academies and universities work on the issue of vacancy. The disciplines involved include architecture, heritage, real estate, philosophy, planning, geography and history. The Week is an initiative of several government agencies in collaboration with institutions for higher education.
The 2015 edition takes place from June 4-8. Commissioned by the Reinwardt Academy, the heritage studies department of the Amsterdam School of the Arts, on behalf of the Amsterdam Creative Industries Network, Non-fiction is the guest curator of this year’s program.
A week-long interdisciplinary workshop
The Week consists of working sessions, walks, expert talks and continuous feedback. This will allow for participants to get a grip of the building, the issues of vacancy, a specific area, reuse, heritage, the reality of real estate and planning politics, and working in an interdisciplinary team.
In 2014, around 17% of all office space in the Netherlands was sitting empty. Although a nationwide problem, the issue becomes especially visible in urban areas: in Sloterdijk, a western area of Amsterdam, over 20% of the offices is vacant. This poses a serious challenge for owners, governments, potential users and society at large. New ideas are required to face this reality head-on.
The building in the late 60′s (Photo: Amsterdam City Archives)
This year’s case
After two editions in The Hague in 2013 and 2014, the Week of the Vacant Building will this year take place in Amsterdam’s Sloterdijk area, right next to train station Sloterdijk and the city’s ring road A10. The case study is a late 1960s building, which was built for the municipal water company. Unrecognisably renovated – and renamed to La Cascade – in 2006, the building has been vacant since 2010.
The case is exemplary for the current stock of vacant office property: much of it is not outstanding, and the lease of most buildings is still too high for potential users as a result of the real estate bubble which has left owners and investors with too expensive property.
Simultaneously, the building is situated in an area for which the local government has drawn up ambitious plans, and where new developments are already taking root. Can the 7.400 square meter building ride the wave of prospective progress? If so: what needs to be done, which (design) interventions are required and what would be a feasible business model? Participants are challenged to answer these questions by analysing the case within its context and generating plans for the building, its surroundings and/or vacant property in general.
The final presentation took place on Monday June 8 from 16:00 in the La Cascade building. Here’s an impression of the week and of the final presentation and proposals.