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NDSM Ecosystem

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NDSM is a very diverse site. There are huge corporations stationed there, people live at NDSM, there's a vibrant artist community and it's a transportational hub. So there's quite a lot going on. In general, there are four types of people frequenting the site, and thus four ways of viewing the site.

1. The eyes of an employee. Big corporations at NDSM are for example Red Bull, MTV and HEMA. People who work here are visitors at NDSM and usually don't live there. They take the ferry every day and when the working day is over at 5pm they take the ferry back home. People working here usually don't have a connection with NDSM and wouldn't hang out here after work - they just want to go home. In their eyes, NDSM is the place where they work and nothing more.

One reason for this is the lack of facilities. Why would you stay if there's nothing there? There's no shops or places for relaxation, apart from the (expensive) IJkantine, and the area itself is just not very friendly: it's an industrial concrete environment where the elements have quite a big impact. See ProtoTag

2. The eyes of a resident. Most people who live at NDSM don't stay for long. People tend to stay temporarily at NDSM whilst looking for a better place in the city. Most residents don't work at NDSM and take the ferry every day to their jobs or schools. The people who live at NDSM are mostly students and immigrants who just don't have the money to pay for the better located places in the city.

The reason people don't stay at NDSM also has to do with the lack of facilities. There's only one small supermarket at HEMA, but no proper supermarkets, shops or places to hang out. The container housing that exists doesn't look very friendly. The connection with the city is excellent during the day, but you can't go out till late at night because the ferry doesn't go. This is a reason why students prefer to live in the city. Because people don't stay at NDSM for long, they also don't grow a connection with the site. People who live here have no idea what's going on in the eastern part, and why would they? There's no reason for them to go there, it's a dead end. Plus, the activities that are there are behind 15m high walls and thus invisible for the outside. See ProtoTag

3. The eyes of an artist. The artist community is vibrant and cool. The Kunststad is the creative hotspot of Amsterdam and lots of artists, architects and other designers have set up their studios inside. Artists can easily connect and collaborate with each other within the Kunststad. The artists usually don't live at NDSM, but because of their 24/7 mentality and often long history at NDSM, there is a connection with the site. Several attempts have been made to create exhibition space or retail space, by artists and for artists. The artists like NDSM and would like to stay at NDSM. They seem to be the group with the closest connection to the site.

Whilst the fact that there's a lot of artists is very cool and gives a creative vibe to the area, there's room for improvement. The artist community is very closed. The walls of the Kunststad are high and people don't just walk in and have a look around, also because the Kunststad is not on any route to a place within NDSM. Your destination has to be the Kunststad to see what's going on. See ProtoTag

4. The eyes of a passerby. This is a big group of people. These are the people who don't live or work at NDSM but visit it every day to go to work and go back home. They live in the city or in places like Tuindorp-Oostzaan and the Oostzanerwerf. They see the site as an empty transportational hub. They come here for the ferry and that's it. They have no reason to stay at NDSM, they just want to go to work or home. Most people come by bike, but there's also a lot of people who park their cars at NDSM and then use the ferry to get into the city.

These people view NDSM as a desolate, empty location. It's remarkable that almost no one knows whats going on in the eastern part. People haven't heard of the Kunststad and have no idea that the buildings are offices of MTV and Red Bull. It's quite a shocking discovery that people who come here every day for who knows how long don't know what's going on.

It has to do with the lack of transparency. As mentioned above, the artist community is just very closed. The lack of exhibition space makes people unaware of the activies going on and the lack of facilities make people not want to stay.See ProtoTag

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Problems and Opportunities

Project02 groups.jpeg There are three main problems the project will address. One problem has partly been described in the 'ecosystem' item above and it is the lack of facilities. People just don't have a reason to stay at NDSM. There are hardly any facilities and the area feels hostile due to the amount of concrete, the lack of green space and the elements charging in from the southwest. The project will answer to this problem and provide a reason for people to stay at NDSM and a reason for people to actually want to go to NDSM.

Another problem of NDSM is that it's divided. As described above there are basically four groups of people using NDSM, but they're living their lives separately from each other. For example, a lot of people visiting NDSM don't even know about the artist community, and don't even know that MTV and Red Bull have their headquarters there. The corporations and the artist community are both very closed, and thus the residents and passerby's don't know what's going on. Because people don't stay at NDSM, they also don't find out what is going on. Coherent with this is the lack of interaction between the groups. Because everyone lives in their own bubble or community, people don't meet each other and don't speak with each other, whilst some great cooperations could exist between for example MTV and the Kunststad, or the Kunststad and students at VU or UvA. The project will definitely answer to this problem and try to bring the inside outside and show what's going on. It will also provide a place for interaction without forcing it - it needs to feel natural.

The third problem has a lot to do with the other two problems mentioned before: people don't have a reason to stay at NDSM. One important reason why people don't want to stay is the unfriendly nature of NDSM. This has to do with the closedness of the Kunststad and the corporations, but also with the industrial look that especially the eastern site has. It's empty and there's a lot of concrete, brick and steel and no green space whatsoever. The project will provide green leisure space where people can walk their dog or just kick a football around during their work breaks.

Whilst NDSM is a site with its problems, there's definitely a heap of opportunities. One opportunity (that almost everyone tries to utilize) is the fact that the Kunststad is there. The artist community is an incredibly important factor and is will be one of the key things this project will utilize. However, labeling them all as 'artists' doesn't do the community justice. They're interior designers, painters, photographers, architects, graphic designers, theatre makers etc. Their creative vibe and spirit will be very important for this project to succeed. At the same time, creating a project that cooperates with the Kunststad also poses a threat: if we change NDSM, will the artists still want to stay? This is something that needs to be dealt with very carefully.

The presence of the various groups discussed above is also an opportunity. As discussed, right now it doesn't really work and the groups don't mix. It is an opportunity (and also a challenge) to create a place where they do mix. The benefits of this are enormous: if people actually have an incentive to stay at NDSM, the place will become more vibrant, more attractive and have a better appeal to the outside world. In general, it would just become a more fun place to be. People can also make money of this new situation: when people from different backgrounds mix, creativity rises and previously unlikely business opportunities may present themselves.


The design is all about functionality. Architecture needs to be functional in this day and age to be viable and legitimate. There's no room and for useless and unnamed spaces.

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The functions in this project are all key functions needed at NDSM. They are defined with three key ideas in mind.

1. Turning NDSM inside out. Let's see what is happening at NDSM. Let's tear down the brick walls and show Amsterdam and the world what is happening at this remarkable and special site. By creating exhibition and music space, people will know what is happening at NDSM and by seeing and interacting with art, music and the site, people will become a part of it.

2. Destination NDSM. Let's give people a reason to visit NDSM. For no longer will NDSM be just the place people go through and go to work. NDSM will become the destination for people. By creating exhibition space, a bar and music space, people will actually have a reason to go to NDSM. The park will provide an incentive for people working or living at NDSM to not eat their lunch at their desks or studios but to go outside and experience the site. Let's make people come out of their shell and give them a reason to come outside, experience the activities at NDSM and appreciate the area.

3. Network plaza. The project will be the central place where everyone who has a relation with NDSM will come together and have the possibility to mingle. By creating conference space and a bar/lunch space, corporates and designers with money will visit the project. It gives people the option to hire out a venue for meetings, workshops and presentations, spaces that are not always available within their own buildings. The bar/lunch room will be the place for after work drinks and NDSM network drinks.

More about functionality and concept can be found here .


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The location of the project is the deserted open space between the Kunststad and the abandoned warehouse west of the Kunststad. There used to be a warehouse on this very spot but it was recently demolished. What remains is a concrete plain of which the only function is as parking space. In the proposal, the concrete slabs will be taken out, which is pretty easy as it consists of loose concrete units unattached to each other. The underlying dirt will be cleaned and a park will be created.

The reasons for this location are:

1. It lies adjacent to the Kunststad, with which it is functionally and visually connected.

2. It is visible from the ferry, which is key in providing an incentive for people to explore the area.

3. It is close to the offices of MTV and Red Bull, thus providing an incentive for people to leave their workplaces during break time and explore the park.

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In translating the concept of 5 different functions into an actual design, a problem presented itself. These five functions all have very different architectural needs. The music centre needs perfect acoustics for example, while the conference center needs plenty of daylight. It is important all functions work perfectly, hence the following idea:

Creating 4 different bubbles, each shaped to perfection for their function, set in a park area.

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The good thing about having separate bubbles is that in a business model you can rent them out separately, but still have a coherent architectural expression.

Parametric design

The architectural coherence will be achieved by creating one system and adapting the system to the different needs of the functions. This is done by assigning parameters to the various needs of functions, such as daylight, acoustics and volume. Four bubbles will be modeled in 3D and with the use of Grasshopper and Rhino shaped to perfection.

For example: daylight is more important for the conference center than the music center. The facade will be made of the same elements with the same details, but in the conference center openings can be bigger than in the music center. The exhibition center will have the same facade with the same style openings, but they will be focused on diffuse light from the north. So in short:

Four functions, four shapes, one system.

Project02 parameters.jpeg Different parameters are shown above. Each parameter has been assigned a number that determines its value, with one being the lowest and five being the highest.

What remains is a challenge to organize the four different bubbles in a way that is both architecturally interesting but also in a way the bubbles function the way they should function: improving and incentivizing interaction.

A possible final outcome could be this:

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Interactive park

Interaction plays an important role in the design. It's about showing what is going on at NDSM and interacting with the people and objects you see. The park will play an important role in this. "Drops of art" will be created. These are small rentable exhibition spaces (about 2 m3) artists can hire to exhibit one or two pieces of art. The drops will be scattered around the park. So, even if an artist can't afford to hire out the big exhibition space, he can still exhibit his works to a broad audience. The inspiration for these drops come from the small glass box that showcases children's art work at the ferry stop (see image below).

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Connections and interactions

These are the projects NDSM_BUBBLES is connected with. More information about interactions, connections and relations can be found here.


Project02 zahahadid.jpeg This project by Zaha Hadid (The Burnham Pavilion in Chicago) is a perfect example of one system with one detail but different openings. It would be easy to shape different blobs with the very same system and details but different functions.

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