The sixth movie in our exclusive series profiling the buildings of MVRDV focuses on Silodam – a polychromatic apartment building on Amsterdam harbour that studio co-founder Nathalie de Vries describes as a "big block lying in the water" (+ movie).
Completed in 2002 as part of the huge transformation of an industrial area comprising a former dam and silo building, the 10-storey block accommodates 157 homes, along with workspaces, commercial units and communal areas for occupants.
The starting point for MVRDV's design was a desire to accommodate a wide variety of homes, bringing together low-income families with elderly residents, office workers and artists.
"The clients asked us to make a building for a lot of different housing types and also a lot of different financing models, so we wanted to explore the differences in financial categories – not in just making bigger and smaller apartments that were all the same, but with everything in very different spaces inside," explains architect Nathalie de Vries in the movie.
"It has become like a cross-section of the Amsterdam society, so you'll find families, older people, people with many different hobbies, attitudes and lifestyles, and they're all united in one building."
The building is raised up over the water. Externally, it resembles a stack of shipping containers, with a variety of different colours and material finishes creating stripes across the facade.
De Vries explains that each cluster of houses was given its own facade type. "We tried to keep the exterior of the building simple – a sort of big block lying there in the water," she says.
Inside, corridors were designed to function like internal streets. There are also various meeting places dotted around the building, including a small dock underneath.
"We knitted together different kinds of entries, as a kind of pathway or routing through the building," adds the architect.
According to resident Ine Reijnen, occupants frequently invite their neighbours into their homes.
"I've seen quite a lot of apartments in this building and they’re all completely different," she says in the film. "There's always something happening, always something moving, and there is no building right in front of you so you can always look outside."
Rotterdam-based MVRDV – which was founded in 1993 by de Vries with Jacob van Rijs and Winy Maas – completed four residential slab blocks between 1997 and 2007, all demonstrating the firm's radical approach to urban housing.
Silodam was the second, and was later followed by The Mirador in Spain and Parkrand, also in Amsterdam. More recent housing designs by the firm include a Swiss block where every residence has a unique colour.