Industrial monuments are functional buildings which use has been given shape in a special way; reuse of these buildings requires the greatest care. Especially when it involves monuments of such magnitude standing on a unique location, the two Grain Silo’s (brick and concrete) on a breakwater in the IJ.
The Brick Silo was built in 1897 for the merchant Korthals Altes after a design by the architects J. F. Klinkhamer and A. L. van Gendt. In the spirit of that time they created an industrial palace, portraying the importance of the grain trade in an elaborate way. The silo was part of the ‘Stelling van Amsterdam’ (defense corridor around Amsterdam; in case of a siege, the stored grain was to feed the city). The exceptional building with great historic value has gained a monumental status.
With respect for this monumental status, the appearance of the Brick Silo is altered as little as possible. Changes are dictated by the change of function, and follow the functional tradition in which the silo was built. The narrow and high windows follow the structure of the facade in a natural way; the heavy masonry piers run uninterrupted.
The housing and work spaces that have been made in the Silo’s clearly show traces of the past. Walls, even the inner walls, are mostly 40 cm to a meter thick. The former silo tubes remain visible in the studio apartments of the ConcreteSilo and the houses up to the fourth floor of the brick silo; the walls follow the measurements of these tubes, 3.8 meters square. Larger rooms an different housing types have been made by breaking away one or more of the tubes.
The Grain Silo’s now offer housing and work space for small businesses; in total 6.000 m² of the available 20.000 m² is destined for working spaces. On ground floor and the first floor 42 work units (50 m² and larger) are situated with individual entrances on the street-side or IJ-side (by walkway). These work units can be combined with housing, creating a large mixture of living and working with a permanent liveliness on street level by individual entrances, small units and the choice of tenants; mainly design studios, light industry, social service, etc.
Special attention was given to durability; reduction of energy and a long lifespan. The special location on the breakwater not only produces magnificent views, it makes the apartments and work spaces also vulnerable to wind and rain. The choice was therefore made for well ‘closed’ facades (although the windows can be opened of course), and an ingenious heat-recovery system (heating the ingoing air with the outgoing air, via separate channels).
In 1995 the reuse of the Grain Silos was awarded the ‘Durable Building Award’ by the city of Amsterdam, for keeping the brick silo as intact as possible. A little math; to bake the estimated 4 million bricks used in the old silo, would in a comparable new building take up to half a million cubic meters in gas; energy that is now saved.
The sound insulation is also up to future standards. All floors are floating. All houses and work spaces have floor heating, which, like the heat recovery system, gets its energy from the central installation with cogeneration.
To complete the durability, special attention was also given to security; the large entrances and staircases are well lit, and the free sector houses have a video-system that shows who is at the door.
The underground parking has a unique computer mechanized system; just drive your car on streetlevel onto the platform, and it is automatically given a space underground; as in a jukebox it reappears on request. In this way the desire for parking space was met, while at the same time the appearance of the breakwater could remain intact.