In good hands, an awkward lot becomes an opportunity to play with spatial possibilities. Such is the case with Highnote, a new residential tower in Almere, the Netherlands, by the Dutch firm Studioninedots. The firm, which recently wowed us with their design for the De Jakoba multi-unit in Amsterdam, is once again playing with form and street presence to delightful effect.

The 19-storey, pink concrete building takes over an angular plot (once a parking lot) between the prominent arteries of Bodestraat and Landrostdreef near city hall. Its rectangular footprint meets the ground with a street-level shared indoor space – “an internal cultural area with workspaces, to which a café and restaurant will be added this year,” the architects at Studioninedots explain. Meanwhile, an orthogonal colonnade outlines the perimeter of the lot to delineate a series of triangular shared outdoor spaces. The architects call these areas “urban rooms….intimate indoor and outdoor spaces flowing into each other and enticing you to wander through them.”

Studioninedots Highnote view of building side

Situated on the west side, the square, or werf, is designed to be transparent and open, welcoming people entering from the city centre; it will host art installations and public events for residents and the neighbourhood and double as a workshop for local creative makerspaces. The other outdoor space, called the hof, is a sheltered garden with walking paths with seating; the building’s lowest, south-facing volume also features a 450-square-metre rooftop garden that’s open to various activities.

The bold gesture of introducing these colonnades as a way of demarcating shared street-level space makes the building a welcoming addition to the neighbourhood, and visually harmonizes its irregular site with its stepped massing, which incorporates staggered balconies. The result: with Highnote, Studioninedots has realized a dynamic form that draws the eye across the site and then up.

Studioninedots Highnote's staggered balconies

The Highnote’s hue is also arresting. “We opted for a monochromatic, soft red concrete facade that seems to shift in colour throughout the day and soothes the rectilinear grid,” the architects explain. “Each volume has its own facade rhythm, reinforcing the stacked building configuration.” Within, there are 157 rental units, including 67 dedicated to “friend” apartments, a first for the city. (The building’s website describes these as “home sharing” spaces, but they’re basically two-bedroom, two-bath layouts.)

A view through a colonnade at Highnote by Studioninedots

Despite its expressive form, the building was erected as efficiently as possible. “We implemented load-bearing, prefabricated facade elements throughout, allowing the building to be constructed in a tight timeframe and virtually scaffold-free,” the architects explain. This also allows the building to remain flexible in its configuration, and changeable in the future. “The facade is built with robust concrete columns with deep, angled recesses that create a play of light and shadow. At street level, the facade flows smoothly into the mystical colonnade.”

A drawing showing Studioninedots's Highnote footprint

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