Aldo van Eyck
Opened in 1959
Ijsbaanpand 3B, Amsterdam
The Burgerweeshuis, designed by Aldo van Eyck in 1955 to house 125 orphaned boys, was completed in 1960 and was used as such until 1991. Van Eyck is given three conditions that the design must meet: openness, fordability and unity. The orphanage looks like a kashba or even a labyrinth and is a textbook example of structuralism. It is made up of countless indoor and outdoor spaces that are connected in a complex order and flow into each other almost imperceptibly. In Van Eyck's vision, the private and the collective are an extension of each other and the boundary between building and city must be broken down.
With the Burgerweeshuis, Van Eyck wanted to bring attention to the individual back in architecture. Among other things, by repeating elements to form a floor plan that is not standardized anyway, by looking for new relationships between indoor and outdoor spaces, by paying great attention to detail and by empathizing with the users: the orphaned children.
In shaping the pavilions that make up the building, Van Eyck uses standard modules that recur in subtle variations. The complex comprises a total of 336 modules, grouped around an inner courtyard. Convex plastic roofs cover the pavilions, with the communal areas located under large round domes. The Burgerweeshuis is a reaction to the architecture of the fifties, which is dominated by the mass production of mostly identical homes and factories. This industrial architecture offered hardly any room for individual expression.
‘‘A circle is actually a mild square’’
Aldo van Eyck
Due to the dilapidated state of the building, a plan was created in the 1980s to demolish part of the Orphanage. A massive action, which is acclaimed from all over the world, prevents demolition. Rescue of the complex is made possible by a project developer who bought the building and the site. All this on the condition that they are allowed to develop an office complex there.
This complex, called ‘Tripolis’, is designed by the couple Aldo and Hannie van Eyck. According to the municipality of Amsterdam, Van Eyck believed that offices should be meeting places instead of just spaces for administrative processing. He kept the idea that an office should be like a city and a city should be like an office.
Tripolis Park is now be renovated by the great architectural office MVDRV. The design will bring much-needed commercial viability to the Tripolis offices while respecting and celebrating the unique qualities of Van Eyck’s design.
In 2018, area developer BPD moved into the Orphanage after a thorough renovation, focusing on the historical value of the building. The interiors are beautiful, a unique place to work.