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Kleiburg is one of the biggest apartment buildings in the Netherlands: a bend slab with 500 apartments, 400 meter long, 10 + 1 stories high.

Kleiburg is located in the Bijlmermeer, a CIAM inspired residential expansion of Amsterdam designed in the sixties by Siegfried Nassuth of the city planning department. De Bijlmer was intended as a green, light and spacious alternative for the -at that time- disintegrating inner city.

The Bijlmer was designed as a single project. A composition of slabs based on a hexagonal grid. An attempt to create a vertical garden city.

Traffic modalities were radically separated; cars and bicycles would no longer share the same space.

The area houses almost 100,000 people of over 150 nationalities. In 2009 there were 140 Christian Congregations alone.

The Bijlmermeer had a very optimistic start. But soon the enthusiasm for this radical residential area turned into fear-for-the-unknown. Fed by heavily economized execution, bad publicity and lack of understanding the Bijlmer turned into a freak circus of urbanism.

A renewal operation started mid nineties. The characteristic honeycomb slabs were
replaced by mostly suburban substance, by ‘normality’.

It was decided to keep the most emblematic area -flanking the stunning, for-ever-futuristic elevated subway line- intact. The so-called Bijlmer Museum came into being; a compact refuge for Bijlmer Believers. Kleiburg is the cornerstone of the remaining ensemble.

Kleiburg is the last building in the area still in its original state; in a way it is the “last man standing in the war on modernism”.

Housing Corporation Rochdale, however, had plans to demolish it. They calculated that a thorough renovation would cost about 70 million Euro...

But bulldozing the masterpiece by architect Ottenhof will lead to a collapse of the magnificent urban composition: an unbearable thought.

In anticipation to the fierce resistance by ‘believers’ and pressure by the local government, that hopes to avert demolition, Rochdale launched a campaign to rescue the building: Kleiburg was offered for ONE EURO in an attempt to catalyze alternative, economically viable plans.

Over 50 parties responded with a range of ideas from student housing to woon/werk-units, to homes for the homeless.

Four teams were selected to further develop their ideas. Ultimately Consortium De FLAT consisting of KondorWessels Vastgoed, Hendriks CPO, Vireo Vastgoed en Hollands Licht, was chosen with their proposal to turn Kleiburg into a Klusflat. ‘Klussen’ translates as to do it yourself or ‘doing odd jobs’.

The idea is to renovate the main structure -elevators, galleries, installations- but to leave the apartments unfinished and unfurnished: no kitchen, no shower, no heating, no rooms. This minimizes the initial investments and as such creates a new business model for housing in the Netherlands.

The future residents can buy the shell for an unprecedentedly low price and then renovate it entirely according to their own wishes: DIY. Owning an ideal home suddenly comes within reach…

The ambition is to open up new ways to live, to offer new typologies by combining two flats (or even more!) into one, by making vertical and horizontal connections.

Many attempts to renovate residential slabs in the Bijlmer, Kleiburg in particular, have focused on differentiation, the objective, presumably, to get rid of the uniformity, the repetition, to ‘humanize’ the architecture.

After two decades of individualization and fragmentation and atomization it seems an attractive idea to actually strengthen unity: Revamp the Whole!

It is time to embrace what is already there, to emphasize the intrinsic beauty. Sublimize!

In the eighties three shafts have been added including extra elevators: although they look ‘original’ they don’t belong there, they introduce disruptive verticality. But it turns out that these concrete additions can be removed. There still enough space in the existing shafts; the elevators can actually be placed inside the existing cores, the brutal beauty of the horizontal balusters can be restored.

The current division between inside and outside is defensive: closed, rather unfriendly. There is room for improvement. Can we imagine opening-up the facade to create a ‘border’ that is more inviting?

The idea is to create a catalogue of facade modules. The future inhabitants will be able to choose a set of window frames that matches the customized layout of their FLATs: Openable parts, sliding doors, double doors, a set-back that creates space for plants or people. As such a personal ‘interface’ will come into being that will activate the galleries.

The new facade will be made of wood, it will be tactile.
The facade design creates a ‘filter’. It aspires to render a form of harmony, or homogeneity; the assembled individuality remains coherent.

In the age of iPad, ‘abstraction’ can make a comeback. Kleiburg’s minimal ‘hardware’ is already magnificent. And now the ‘interface’ has the chance to become diversified and personalized.

One of the central ideas of the renewal of the Bijlmer was to lower the elevated roads and to demolish the multi-story parking garages. From now on cars will be introduced on ground level. This means sacrificing the most positive feature, the green space. A devilish dilemma…

The zoning law prescribes the parking to be positioned directly next to the building. Can we explore a more generous direction? What if we examine which trees are valuable and ‘bend’ the road around them to create a parkway with the elegant curves of a race track? Zocher meets Zandvoort: a combination of park and parking.
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