Chemistry building

Nieuwe Achtergracht 127
Norbert Gawronski
Universiteit van Amsterdam
Hilde de Haan & Ids Haagsma, Al de gebouwen van de Universiteit van Amsterdam, Haarlem 2000, p.120-123, p.126-127, p.131-132.

Building for the faculty of chemistry of the University of Amsterdam

In 1957, the University of Amsterdam commissioned the architect Norbert Gawronski to design a master plan for developing the whole of Roeterseiland. The strategy of the master plan was to build up the entire area with medium-rise structures. Soaring student numbers soon made this urban concept look out of date, however. The only solution Gawronski considered feasible for the ensuing situation was to move to a higher scale. A new scheme dating from 1964 involved the construction of two extremely large, interlinked buildings.

After the Mathematics tower, the Chemistry Building was the second building of this scheme to be realized. It is a tall, elongated volume which could be viewed as the backbone of Roeterseiland. Gawronski chose glass curtain walling for the facade but articulated it with horizontal bands of tinted glass along each floor. Additional horizontal accents mark the top and bottom of the facade.

The large, oblong structure is partly supported on freestanding columns, by means of which it arches across the canal Nieuwe Achtergracht. The Chemistry Building was never completed as Gawronski planned: protests from local residents forestalled the addition of an extension at right angles to the existing volume. (ARCAM/JR)