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DB55 is an entirely new archetype: a blended venue. This former timber warehouse has been transformed into a building in which every square meter is used four times over. Through a number of clever interventions, an attractive and impressive space has been created where dozens of different functions come together and reinforce each other.

The Houthavens area is part of the Amsterdam port and currently under development, with industry being surrounded by new office and residential buildings. Adding human scale and facilities is crucial to ensure the liveability of the neighbourhood.

To facilitate this, D/DOCK has created an entirely new archetype with DB55; the blended venue. Most buildings are used on average 50 hours a week and are therefore in fact empty 70% of the time. Imagine what would happen if we’d make better use of our buildings by switching its users during the day, week or month?

In almost all buildings, in fact, the separation between people is central. Although various functions are sometimes combined in one building, there are often still separate entrances, separate traffic areas, separate building parts, separate floors.

DB55 is about removing this traditional division between people.

Every room can be used by everyone, even in the evenings, nights and weekends. This creates a place that is always buzzing. Social interaction and unexpected encounters contribute to its liveliness. This enriches both the building and the neighbourhood.

DB55 is currently used for work, sports, music, events, a public restaurant, overnight stays, exhibitions, a children’s playground, education, an auditorium, ice baths, workshops, and so on. Quadrupling the used space gives 1,100 m2 the value of 4,400 m2. DB55 strengthens the connection between people, allows the neighbourhood to benefit and shows that we can make much better use of real estate, which is urgently needed in this time of housing shortage.

The principle of DB55 fits in with the emergence of the sharing economy, which revolves around the sharing of services and products. To date, however, the influence of the sharing economy on architecture has been relatively limited. The sectors in which the shared use of a space has already gone a step further are retail and catering. Covid-19 has accelerated this development. Bakeries now double as parcel service desks, hotels are being used as workspaces, you can do daily workouts in nightclubs and get haircuts in theatres.

DB55 is the prototype of this important development. DB55 is not an office, but a blended venue – a place where art, performances, celebrations, education, family, friends and work blend together.

DB55

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Design principles

The building’s design revolves around four pillars:

1. Circularity
2. From the inside out
3. Blended Use
4. Biophilia

Circularity

In order to build truly circularly, you have to start with the supply before designing anything. For example, Once we knew which steel stairs we would get, the upper floors were fitted into the design accordingly. The flooring comes from old train sets, leftovers or wooden planks that served as roof boarding for homes. DB55’s recycled concrete and glass walls were test facades at TNO or functioned as a mock-up. All lights are leftover stock, end-of-life products or refurbished. For the tiling in the sanitary areas we used leftovers from bankruptcies. All audio-visual and kitchen equipment is second hand. The latter also applies to 70% of all furniture.

Inside out

Our architectural vision is that we design buildings “from the inside out”. First we want to know where the user stands in the building and what the user needs. For example, the façade openings are made in places where you need daylight and views, not where you would expect it based on the standards of façade design.

Blended-use

To use the space optimally for all kinds of activities, we have refrained from splitting the lofty interior into multiple floors. Almost all elements are placed on wheels and there are as few fixed elements as possible, such as fixed furniture and walls. The shower is luxuriously designed, adding a touch of wellness. The kitchen area is large and includes professional dishwashers too, so that we can cater to large groups. A glass and insulated folding wall has been added to the façade, which can be opened across the entire width.

Biophilia

Many buildings are sealed and air-conditioned to the maximum. If it’s 32 degrees outside, the air conditioning inside is turned on at full blast, so that people are working in wool sweaters. We have emphatically and consciously chosen to do things differently. We accept that it is a bit warmer inside if it is a tropical day outside. The Houthavens is an area with a cool breeze that gives you a wonderful holiday feeling when you open the windows. And if the rain is pouring outside, it’s fine if you hear it indoors, as long as there are plenty of places downstairs where it won’t bother you during a video call, for example. Design principles like these make the users aware of nature and the seasons.

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