Home and dry: a mix of uses is replacing the industrial area round the river port of Duisburg. This housing development is inspired by the waterside cities of northern Europe.
In their housing scheme, Ingenhoven Overdiek & Partner decided to reinterpret the morphology of the area between the city centre and the harbour basin. They have created roughly parallel blocks flanked by shallow canals that are actually slightly above harbour level. These take all rainwater from the development, and are planted with reeds that help purify the water as it gently flows down towards the great river.
Despite their very regular elevations, the blocks contain a wide variety of accommodation, ranging from studio units to three-bedroom family flats. All face east-west with deep loggias on their west sides and small balconies on the east. Construction is of finely finished precast concrete panels, with the recessed top storeys having steel structure and cedar cladding. Internal partitions have been varied, allowing, for instance, kitchens to open off living areas, or to be separate spaces. The architects wanted to make the rooms 'neutral' so that they can be used for many different purposes.
This sounds like a recipe for anomie. In fact, it is not. The parti locks into the existing city with a small square to the south and a generous well-planted inner court. The canals are a real gain for the whole city, with their tree-lined pedestrian paths leading down to the river. So on both sides, the flats look out over trees and each dwelling has a view of the canals. Cars are carefully controlled: under each block is an underground garage, which in section raises the entrance level a metre above path level, so the lowest floor has privacy, and the garages are ventilated.
Vertical circulation stacks divide the terraces. They serve two flats on each floor with glass lifts and really excellently made stairs that have cast stone treads cantilevered from central stringers.
Each heavy, well insulated front door has a welcoming wooden seat in the internal porch. Joinery is immaculate and the concrete is either acid-etched or polished.
It is this fineness, the quality of obvious decency that makes the scheme a quiet, undemonstrative example of how a city can re-embrace its waterside nature, and evoke the elegant aquatic northern European urban tradition that inspires us all from Amsterdam to Stockholm.
RELATED ARTICLE: Architect
Ingenhoven Overdiek & Partner, Dusseldorf
Christoph Ingenhoven, Rudolf Jones, Barbara Bruder, Frank Reineke, Richard Galinski, Axel Moller
H. G. Esch, Hennef
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||The Architectural Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2003|
|Previous Article:||War stories: Daniel Libeskind's trophy building for the imperial War Museum is a key element in the regeneration of Salford's defunct docks.|
|Next Article:||Naval power: Falmouth's new maritime museum responds to and is inspired by the muscular vernacular of nautical buildings.|