Rem Koolhaas, Kees Christiaanse en Ron Steiner
Office for Metropolitan Architecture
Janny Rodermond, 'Byzantium mist arrogantie', de Architect, juli-augustus 1991; Paul Vermeulen, 'Metropolitan Vernacular. OMA's Byzantium in Amsterdam', Archis, augustus 1991.
Commercieel, Wonen

Superblock with dwellings, shops, offices and parking garage

On Stadhouderskade, between Vondelpark and the Marriot Hotel, stands the building Byzantium, designed by Rem Koolhaas and elaborated by the project architects Kees Christiaanse and Ron Steiner. The complex contains shops, offices, apartments and a parking garage, a programme whose scale was fairly unique in the Netherlands in the late eighties. Byzantium has the character of a superblock, in which the traditional urbanistic relationships are magnified.

On a scale on which previously only large public buildings such as churches were built, shops and dwellings were realized in a superblock. The traditional size, the familiar tension between identity and urban anonymity, is easily lost. In the design for Byzantium, OMA sought to realize this tension by designing the complex as a collage. The anonymity of the large volume is downplayed through the use of different forms, colours, materials and textures.

Apart from the gold-coloured elements and the blue mirror glass windows of the office tower, Byzantium is a fairly unpretentious complex. The elegant tower on Stadhouderskade conforms to the facade frontage and the shops along the side fit in with the scale of Tesselschadestraat. Most of the complex is situated on Vondelpark. Here, the building is most unobtrusive, because of the receding volume and the subdued greyish blue colour. Despite the chosen collage strategy and the building’s relative unobtrusiveness, Byzantium was controversial. Purists objected to the gold-coloured glazed front, which ascends diagonally towards Vondelpark, and to the gold-coloured, round extension above the entrance to Vondelpark. Originally, a public function had been envisaged here: a glass lift was to have taken visitors to a bar. However, the lift proved too costly, and so the extension became a penthouse. OMA would have preferred not to have built the extension, but the client insisted on it. (ARCAM/JEA/JW)