Combining Dutch heritage and international architecture, MVRDV’s ‘Crystal houses’ for CHANEL’s flagship store in Amsterdam mimics the original townhouse facade of the building with the extensive use of glass bricks. Located on the PC Hooft-straat, Amsterdam’s only luxury brand street, Crystal Houses provides a solution to high end retail driven streets without the loss of the local character and personality. The original design, down to the layering of the bricks and details of the window complies with zoning laws and meets retail design needs for a window shop front.
“We said to the client – Let’s bring back what will be demolished but develop it further” explains Winy Maas, architect and co-founder of MVRDV. “Crystal Houses make space for a remarkable flagship store, respect the structure of the surroundings and bring a poetic innovation in glass construction. It enables global brands to combine the overwhelming desire of transparency with a couleur locale and modernity with heritage. It can thus be applied everywhere in our historic centres.” - Source: MVRDV
Leading the way in craftsmanship, it took a team of experts working 365 days of the year in what was more of a laboratory than a construction site. The bricks themselves are individually cast and UV bonded with a transparent adhesive to cement bricks. This technique allows the building to be structurally sound without the need for a more traditional mortar. Strength tests conducted by the Delft University of Technology team concluded that the glass facade is stronger than concrete. If this isn't enough, greater thinking of construction methods unearthed additional possibilities for future construction, such as the melting down and re-moulding of the bricks for a new life. In the event of any damage, repair-protocols allow for the replacement of individual bricks. If this isn't enough, a ground source heat pump allows for optimal indoor climate throughout the year, ensuring the balance of energy usage.
At OE, we think that this progressive approach to design, sensitivity to materials and accuracy of craftsmanship is Jaw-Dropping. We will be keeping our eyes open for opportunities to use new materials and continue to provide exciting design solutions.