Tower Ten, the latest loot from the WTC, turns the complex into a hodgepodge
Tower Ten is the newest addition to the WTC. solution, an existing airframe was stripped and surrounded with new wings. The office fields that have sprung up are immense – but just how attractive is this architecture?
With large or even mega buildings it is not the issue of whether they are beautiful or ugly, qualifications that you should not really use in an assessment. Mega buildings involve immersing yourself in something else; about the function, the organisation, the commercial return – and less about the aesthetics. So the World Trade Center, which has been supplemented by the new Tower Ten, evaded criticism.
The aim is to offer as many square meters as possible, which here become minimal with office fields. The aim is also to house internationally operating companies, who are not called tenants but guests. The office 2.0 is of a different nature than the office as it was rented in 1985, the year that the WTC was founded in Zuid, long before there was a Zuidas.
With Amsterdam UMC, branch AMC, the WTC is the largest building in Amsterdam, closely followed by the RAI. In all three cases, it’s all about the function. How to serve and care for as many patients as possible, how to organize conferences and trade fairs as efficiently as possible and how to facilitate large and ultra-large companies. This is the XL in architecture.
White-grey organ pipes
In 1985, the firm Van den Oever, Zaaijer en Roodbeen designed the WTC on Strawinskylaan with a swinging awning as a trademark and a facade of mirrored glass when it was still fashionable. The partnership would build more similar high-tech buildings in Amsterdam in which glass and metal play a leading role: an important example is a cone made entirely of glass near the NDSM wharf in Noord.
The triumvirate has nothing to do with the latest expansion of the WTC. The expansion and upgrading has been in the hands of the London office PLP and the Dutch architect Ron Bakker for 25 years. In 2003, the last refurbishment took place, as it is called, as if it were an iPhone. And now the last phase has just been completed on the Beethovenstraat side, where an existing tower was stripped and interrupted again with a new and higher facade.
The core with its thick columns is therefore hidden behind a new housing, which has the advantage that an enormous amount of floor space has been added. Striking about this tower Ten are the coated, white-grey organ pipes that Bakker called baguettes for inexplicable reasons. They filter the daylight and act as a kind of curtain between the interior and the outside world.
Tower Ten widens towards the top. According to Bakker, the curved shape of the tower is intended to achieve a measured transition between the WTC and the low Princess Irenebuurt. Standing on the 22nd floor, it feels like the giant and Tom Thumb, so insignificant are the villas and old offices on the north side.
The big difference with the first WTC from 1985 is that the complex then stood in a no man’s land and contained energy-consuming offices and a bank branch. It was more focused on the car, nowadays people come by bike or by train or metro and work is seen as a meeting. They need a gym, food service and a bar. When presenting Tower Ten, the key word was ‘hotel’: the employee is a guest who likes to be pampered. He will be stimulated creatively.
Roof terraces on different floors of the new tower belong to that architecture. In the near future, every company can relax in lounge chairs between greenery. That sounds more attractive on paper than it is in practice, several terraces are sandwiched between an old tower and the view consists of installations, ventilation pipes, lift houses and other technology.
A mixed bag
And even though Tower Ten is meant to usher in a new chapter in the history of the WTC, the – provisional – result is that there is a mixed bag of towers, a kind of office cashba. That is the general handicap of mega-buildings: they are like never-enough caterpillars and lose shape. Because the first towers do not meet the BREEAM standard for sustainability (including excellent energy performance), it will be quite a job to refurbish them.
A frenetic attempt has been made to create together in the complex by continuing the undulating roof on the Strawinskylaan. Inside, in the pleasant atrium, there is no sign of confusion, but outside it is a mishmash. Bakker is preparing to enrich the WTC with three towers on the Mathijs Vermeulenpad along the A10 and will still have his hands full with the renovation of the oldest towers. With the knowledge that the Zuidasdok may now also be completed, there will be unrest in and around the WTC for a long time to come.