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By Nam Kha Tran
The KNSM Island in Amsterdam is an interesting mix of leftover dockland industrial units, and redeveloped and repurposed buildings, all orientated around a late 1980s masterplan by local architect Jo Coenen. One of these preserved buildings is an old canteen, which has since been transformed into a number of individual housing units.
Marc Koehler architects' 'House Like Village' project attempts to capture the zeitgeist of the island by imagining the residential space as a set of many microcosms. These have been manifested in the design as smaller 'clusters', cube shaped volumes within the main residential unit. Bedrooms and storage spaces are hidden in the same style behind white painted doors. These cubes support a kitchen, study and dining area above, all playfully connected by walking bridges.
Koehler worked closely with the clients (a young couple with one new-born) and established a design that can be easily extended if needed by way of additional volumes.
A large fireplace helps to heat the main living area, while the isolation of the more private spaces helps to cut down on individual energy demands.
The vast interior is blessed with outstanding views of the harbour and abundant natural light, thanks to two completely glazed facades. The contrast between the existing, exposed roof structure and the experimental layout reflects the island's evolution and heritage.
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