CAD/BIM Tips & Tricks
From Concrete Jungle to Lush Oasis: Visionary Project Alters Cityscape
08 March 2023
Sometimes, one man’s vision can be a complete game-changer. While a lot of people prefer not to live, work or play in an inner-city environment simply because they hate the concrete jungle, one architect’s mission to change all that came to fruition in a part of Amsterdam known as Zuidas (or South Axis). Imagine being able to live, work and play in a tranquil, light-filled oasis — plumb in the middle of a central business district — without feeling like you’re trapped in a concrete jungle. If it sounds unlikely or too good to be true, read on.
Consider how many central business districts resemble a ghost town after dark. For a location that takes millions or billions of dollars to establish, these periods of dormancy at night and on the weekends simply make no sense economically and constitute a terrible underutilization of both the financial investment and the space.
Too often, a central business district resembles a ghost town after dark.
The Business District, Rebooted
Zuidas is a rapidly developing business district and is known as the “Financial Mile” of Amsterdam. But, like many central business districts, it could benefit from having new life breathed into the area, something to give it some “oomph” and energy. Enter Winy Maas, Dutch co-founder of architecture and urban design studio, MVRDV.
Winy saw the potential for something that could combine two worlds: a place where offices and retail space could harmoniously co-exist with residential spaces and recreational areas in a peaceful, green environment. And it didn’t need to look like yet another modern skyscraper. Winy thought it could resemble a valley, which is what the project was named.
Talking about the concept, Winy says, “Valley is a symbol of our cohesion. It’s a kind of enclave and an oasis within that. So, what we made is kind of a block of mirrors that reflect the environment, but it’s carved out, a hundred meters high, like a rock. And it shows as a valley of balconies that are full of plants, and you can walk — by stairs — over this rock, from one end to the other.”
A Valley in the City?
Valley consists of three towers (220 feet, 266 feet, and 328 feet tall respectively), which, when viewed from different angles, truly do appear as a craggy valley, with areas that are deeply recessed and other spaces that protrude like rocky overhangs. Winy explains the design: “The invention then, to do the push-in, push-out ... if you push it in, you get, say, a fantastic grotto. You push it out, you get a bay window, and when you try to work like that on every floor, there was a kind of an ‘aha’ moment, and wow, this became like an insane valley.”
The project certainly injects vigor and dynamism into Zuidas. The combination of residences, businesses, restaurants, shops, and cultural facilities means that the area is revitalized, as it’s constantly used and inhabited, resulting in no ghost town after dark in this business district. Additionally, Valley is interwoven with the city’s existing public areas through the masterful use of landscaping designed by internationally renowned landscape architect, Piet Oudolf.
The landscaping at Valley is an integral part of the building’s visual appeal and cleverly continues, uninterrupted, from the street level to the various terraces of the building, creating a lush and inviting landscape that is open to the public. Most of the trees are found on the lower floors, while the upper levels contain smaller plants.
Valley is home to almost 300 young trees, shrubs, and approximately 13,500 smaller plants, with a total of over 220 different plant species. Anticipating greater diversity than the buildings’ human inhabitants, there are bird- and bat-boxes as well as “hotels” for bees and other beneficial insects.
The color palette of the plants and trees selected for the site was specifically chosen to echo the colors one typically sees in the mountains, further emphasizing the naturalistic feel of the project.
The construction of Valley was tricky, literally from the foundations, up. With two-thirds of the Netherlands’ land area below sea level, the Dutch have become adept at great feats of engineering to provide solid, enduring foundations. The foundation for Valley required an underwater concrete pour and a brief insight can be viewed here.
While Valley’s sheer, mirror-glazed outer shell resembles the type of office building one would expect to see in a central business district, the opposing craggy “rockfaces” are a phantasmagorical wonder of fenestration, architectural projections, cantilevered spaces and soffits, whose nooks and crannies offer spaces that are either shady, private and secluded, or wide open and sun-soaked, with spectacular views across the city for the residents of Valley’s 200 apartments — each with a unique floorplan. And everywhere you look, there’s greenery cascading across the “rockface,” which itself is clad in over 40,000 natural stone tiles.
You can see the love in Winy’s eyes when he talks about this project. “You can say it’s insane, but I love insanity, and it’s insanely beautiful.”
He saw the potential for something that could combine two worlds: a place where offices and retail space could harmoniously co-exist with residential spaces and recreational areas in a peaceful, green environment.
Revit Quirks Resolved
We’re going to assume that Revit® was the BIM platform of choice for the Valley project. Given the vast number of collaborators working on this ambitious project, it simply makes sense. (Ok, we cheated a little, we’ll admit. MVRDV also lists “strong Revit skills” as a requirement in a hiring ad, so we’re cautiously optimistic that we’re safe in our assumption on this issue!)
If you’re a Revit user, there may be a couple of quirks you’d prefer not to have to deal with. One of them may be importing Excel® spreadsheets, Word® docs and PDFs into your project. Microsoft Office Importer™ for Revit allows you to enjoy easy imports with flawless formatting every time. Your Word docs will be editable and searchable, and you can literally drag and drop huge multipage PDFs into your project.
If you’d like to discuss your particular situation with a Service Consultant, call 727-442-7774 to get any questions answered.
By the way, Winy, if you’re reading this, you’re right. Valley is insanely beautiful and an enduring reminder that the impact of smart design could outlive us all. Well done, or, as you’d say in Dutch, goed gedaan!