The HTS complex in the city’s Kolenkitbuurt district was designed in 1965 by the architectural firm Nielsen, Spruijt and Van der Kuijlen. This five-storey school building was surrounded by a number of low-rise sections. The various sections were connected by more or less enclosed exterior spaces. The façade was partially open due to the glazed areas with slender steel frames and partially closed due to the areas of white glazed brick. The steel structure was left exposed to view in places, which was experimental for its time.
In the 1990s, the HTS, now part of the Amsterdamse Hogeschool, relocated to new accommodation elsewhere in the city. From 2000 to 2005, the building was in use as an asylum-seekers centre, a breeding ground for artists and a children’s daycare facility, after which it fell vacant.
The large floor area and the building’s poor state of repair made redevelopment difficult. In 2012, however, in collaboration with Bureau Broedplaatsen Amsterdam, hotelier Sandra Chedi and citymaker Kees van Ruyven, the building’s owner, the local district council Stadsdeel Bos en Lommer (now Stadsdeel West), took the initiative to transform the building.
WOW Amsterdam is, for a period of fifteen years, now in use as living accommodation for fifty graduate artists and a hostel with three hundred beds. The architectural office MMX architects was responsible for the building’s redevelopment. Despite a tight budget and an extremely short preparatory and construction period, and thanks above all to the huge enthusiasm for the project, the transformation was completed in June 2014. An important starting point in the design and use of WOW was the active relationship between, on the one hand, guests and residents and, on the other hand, local residents and visitors. To this end, the closed character of the original building was altered by making the ground floor completely transparent. The interior had been characterized by oppressive spaces such as the corridors and stairwells. MMX architects demolished the lowered ceilings and painted the walls the same colours as the floors, as a result of which the spaces feel more spacious. Moreover, on each floor a room has been completely broken through and the unnecessary swing doors to the upper floors have been demolished, thereby allowing in more daylight.
The three exterior spaces are now in use as a tea garden, a vegetable garden and a square, where visitors, guests and users can meet. The resident artists and other designers and entrepreneurs can contribute to the cultural programme, as a result of which WOW provides them with a platform. The interior has been given a makeover in order to accommodate the cultural programme. For example, the gigantic stairwell is now also a vertical art gallery and exhibition space. In the forecourt is an object that has been designed by two students at the city’s Academy of Architecture. It can be used as a seat but can also be transformed into a platform or catwalk.