Urban Renewal Europarei - Uithoorn - Netherlands
A fundamental upgrade: New facades, entrances, and railings lend the large apartment blocks an elegant lightness and reinforce their harmony with the surroundings on a large scale.
Nine buildings with 1100 apartments and more than 3000 residents: nearly one-tenth of the population of the small Dutch city of Uithoorn lives in the Europarei settlement that was built in the late 1960s on the outskirts of the city. In 2004, Atelier Kempe Thill won the competition to overhaul the housing estate, which was in urgent need of refurbishment. By 2010, six of the ten-story buildings were renovated and the common areas redesigned. The buildings’s structure and the tight budget did not allow for significant changes to the existing buildings.
As the owner, the housing association planned with a mere fifteen years of further use of the building and thus kept is total investment to a minimum.
Just as cost pressures and pragmatism had determined the creation of the settlement, so too did they affect the client’s renovation plans. Still, in addition to modernizing the building services and the improvement of the energy balance through new windows, thermal insulation, and solar roof panels, the architects managed to achieve a significant aesthetic improvement of the entire settlement. They decided against an individualization of each building – an approach commonly taken in the refurbishment of such settlements, for instance in Germany. Instead, the renovation concept focused on the settlement’s overall appearance. The individual buildings were made more transparent and open while maintaining their coherence.
The existing qualities, especially the generous size of the individual dwellings and the close relationship between the buildings and the wide, green polder landscape were both preserved and strengthened.
At Europarei, Atelier Kempe Thill was able to reinforce the link between architecture and nature – one of the most fundamental promises of modernism – through the skillful use of materials. The original metal-sheeted balustrades of the walkways and balconies were replaced with glass, and new glass pavilions opened up the once dark entranceways. The environment is now (literally) reflected in the buildings, which take on a greenish cast. Together with the new façade elements in similarly colored green glass, the apartment blocks seem to melt into the landscape. In addition, the 125-meter-long side elevations were fitted with highly insulating windows, while the short ends of the buildings were insulated and covered with light-colored masonry.
Atelier Kempe Thill managed to give the housing estate in Uithoorn a new transparency and lightness, without having to deconstruct it.