An acute housing shortage in Amsterdam is prompting a radical rethink of traditional urban development. The idea: transform part of the site of a former wastewater treatment plant into a nature-inclusive apartment complex “where people, plants and animals feel at home,” says Peter Heuvelink, director of AM
The Dutch developer is joining architecture and design firms VenhoevenCS and DS Landschapsarchitecten to launch the project following the zoöp model, which calls for making “the interests of nonhuman life part of organizational decision making.” Located on an island near the city, Sluisbuurt Kavel 4A will create 82 apartments for humans, as well as provide shelter for the city’s dwindling animal species. The team will build nests and insect hotels for sparrows and bats into the building’s facade, for example, and landscaping to attract butterflies and hedgehogs. And one side of a stone wall located where the site meets a river will have cracks where plants and fish can make their homes.
To ensure the design aligns with the city’s plants and animals, the team worked with a specialist to think through project specs during the planning stage. In many cases, they had to rethink traditional designs. Case in point: The complex will have varying heights, ranging from 12 meters to 40 meters (39 feet to 131 feet), with each of six rooftop terraces serving as a different microhabitat to accommodate a variety of plants and animals.
“All of the roofs are different. The ones that are, for instance, closer to ground, are wetter. Some of them are more in the sunlight, so they are drier, and they have grasses,” Jos-Willem van Oorschot, architect partner and director at VenhoevenCS, told Goodnet. “Some of them have higher bushes, so that will be for birds to hide. Some of them have plants that also provide food for birds or other animals.”
The team didn’t forget about humans, of course. The building’s ground floor will be designed to accommodate the needs of several biodiversity research nonprofits that plan to relocate to the site, and the structure’s roofs and facades will be constructed of materials designed to optimize energy consumption. By the time the project is completed—tentatively scheduled for 2026—the complex will also offer 1,500 square meters (16,146 square feet) of space for shops and businesses.
It’s an ambitious project—creating a model of sustainability for other teams to follow, says van Oorschot. “As far as we are concerned, the result sets the tone for how the Sluisbuurt [neighborhood] and the rest of the city should be built in the coming years.”