Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

[Shameless plug: Join an Amsterdamsel WWII and Jewish Heritage tour when you’re in Amsterdam to view this and other delightful sights of the old Jewish quarter.]

March 4, 2013

THE HAGUE (JTA) — An ancient synagogue in Amsterdam that was sold after World War II was returned to the Dutch Jewish community.

The city of Amsterdam signed over the Uilenburger Synagogue in the eastern part of the city center to a registered association set up by the Jewish community, according to a report last week in the Dutch Jewish weekly Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad.

The institutions of Holland’s decimated post-Holocaust Jewish community sold the synagogue, which opened in 1766, to the city in 1954 due to lack of use. The building stood vacant for many years before it was rented out as a storage place, NIW reported.

The Uilenburger Shul Foundation, which officially owns the building, has a budget of up to $2.5 million for renovations. Plans call for a simple but large rectangular structure with a tall gable and three large windows in its facade.

Approximately 75 percent of the 140,000 Jews who lived in the Netherlands in 1941 died in the Holocaust.

Maurits Jan Vink, the chairman of the Uilenburger Shul Foundation, told NIW that he was very happy to see “such a pretty building returning after such a long time to function as a Jewish institution.”

Read original article here.


Hurricane Sandy, which battered the Northeast and flooded large parts of New York City, costing at least $34 billion and taking more than 100 lives, may have been a climatic anomaly. But it may also suggest a very real future of rising sea levels and coastal flooding triggered by climate change. If that is the case, no country offers a better master class in flood protection than the Netherlands, which spends $1.3 billion a year on flood control. The country’s favorite patriotic slogan—“God created the world but the Dutch created the Netherlands”—reflects the fact that much of the low-lying country should be waterlogged. The reason it’s not is a centuries-old network of dikes, floodgates, sluices, and canals, regulated by regional water control boards, which have reclaimed land, protected against storm surges, and ensured that water levels remain stable.

That’s why New York mayor Michael Bloomberg asked for Dutch advice in 2011 after Hurricane Irene, turning to Professor Jeroen Aerts of the Free University of Amsterdam. Aerts’s analysis of how to protect New York City and the Eastern Seaboard is due later this year, but if it follows the Dutch model, it will likely emphasize a form of hydraulic engineering that replicates the Dutch Delta Works projects, a massive system of storm surge barriers and levees. Whether there is enough state or federal money for that kind of infrastructure is the big unknown. If not, some coastal Americans may consider turning to buoyant, foundationless homes like the 75 floating houses of IJburg that bob in Amsterdam’s harbor.

Original Conde Nast Traveler article found here

Original BBC News article found here

By Anna HolliganBBC News, The Netherlands

Renovations in Amsterdam apartments – nicknamed “halal homes” in the press – have sparked a political row in the Netherlands.

About 180 apartments in Amsterdam have been given special makeovers which suit the wishes of Muslim residents. Features include individual taps that can be used for ritual cleansing before prayers and sliding doors to keep men and women apart.

Apartments in Bos and Lommer area
The renovated apartments look quite typical from the outside

 Some right-wing politicians have been stirring up public opposition, warning that anyone asking for such modifications should “leave for Mecca”.

From the outside, the apartments look no different from other social housing blocks in the residential area of Bos and Lommer, in the less opulent western reaches of the capital.

Aynur Yildrim gives a tour of her home with the enthusiasm of an inspired estate agent. In the bathroom she bends to reveal the lowered water point – a modification that, in some variation, might equally exist in non-religious homes. But it is the perceived religious aspect of these changes that has made them so controversial.

And it is in the tidy kitchen that the distinction is most striking, as Ms Yildrim shows off the sliding doors.

“I wanted a closed kitchen, in order to be able to close the kitchen off now and then for a bit more privacy. Sometimes we like to be separated, the women on one side and the men on the other.”

Wim de Waard of the housing association Eigen Haard insisted that the changes were “absolutely not religiously inspired – they are just practical adaptations”. The adaptations followed consultations with local residents, including Muslim groups.

Mr de Waard stressed that apartments were not reserved for Muslims – homes were assigned on the basis of rank on the waiting list, size of household and income.

Aynur Yildrim in her apartment in Amsterdam
Aynur Yildrim is enthusiastic about the adaptations which fit in with Muslim tradition

Wilders outraged

For many Dutch people, living in a historically tolerant and liberal country, the idea of separating men and women has led to some criticism that these buildings are effectively condoning some kind of gender inequality.

The controversial anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders accused the Dutch authorities of subsidising a “medieval gender apartheid”.

He has publicly prophesied about an impending “ghettoisation” of Dutch neighbourhoods – not unusually strong words from a man who once appeared in court for his strident rhetoric. Mr Wilders was cleared of inciting religious hatred two years ago.

After a poor performance in recent parliamentary elections, Mr Wilders may be angling to woo immigration-conscious right-wing voters again with his strong, headline-grabbing statements. Recent opinion polls suggest that if there were to be an election tomorrow, his Freedom Party (PVV) would win.

A Dutch property developer and PVV supporter said he was “shocked” by the “halal homes” concept.

“It’s a ridiculous idea, I thought it was a joke,” he complained.

“It turns into reality. The rules of the Koran are discrimination, it is stimulating discrimination. It’s taking us back to medieval times.”

“These immigrants are from lower social classes, they’re not educated, they’re bringing those values to our Dutch society – the opposite should happen, they should adapt to our modern and free values.

We should teach them to integrate. This is backwards. What if it were on buses? If we were to separate men and women on buses it would be like discrimination again, here in the Netherlands. It’s crazy. I can’t believe it. It frightens me.”

Using tax revenueBut many residents in the area seem to accept that what their neighbours do in the privacy of their own homes is entirely up to them.

Geert Wilders - file pic
Geert Wilders has long campaigned against Muslim influence in Dutch society

Tess Duijghuisen lives in the same block and said: “A lot of new people arrived here lately, a lot of young people like me, so trust me, there’s no problem of ghettoisation.

“And there are a lot of exchanges between people from all nationalities, which makes life much nicer here.”

On internet forums, some users have made light of the renovations, with comments such as, “I believe in the power of disco, please can I have a disco ball built into my apartment?”

When I asked Dutch followers on Twitter why the opposition, they told me “it’s wrong that inequality should be subsidised by tax money” and that another country’s traditions “may be offensive to others”.

It is a debate over the public versus private spaces. When the public purse is used to part-fund modifications, which many see as the religious antithesis of traditional Dutch society, conflict emerges.

Public funding is actually in the form of a guarantee, the housing association says. Yet it is still perceived as a subsidy.

The housing association says the complex is completely mixed, that the homes have been renovated to improve their “rentability” and that it is just trying to keep everyone happy. Many would argue that that is a tough ambition to fulfil – whether in religion, politics or our private lives.

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By TOBY STERLING — Associated Press

DORDRECHT, NETHERLANDS — Just as the first storms of winter roll in, Dutchman Johan Huibers has finished his 20-year quest to build a full-scale, functioning model of Noah’s Ark – an undertaking of, well, biblical proportions.

Huibers, a Christian, used books 6-9 of Genesis as his inspiration, following the instructions God gives Noah down to the last cubit.

Translating to modern measurements, Huibers came up with a vessel that works out to a whopping 427 feet (130 meters) long, 95 feet (29 meters) across and 75 feet (23 meters) high. Perhaps not big enough to fit every species on Earth, two by two, as described in the Bible, but plenty of space, for instance, for a pair elephants to dance a tango.

Johan’s Ark towers across the flat Dutch landscape and is easily visible from a nearby highway where it lies moored in the city of Dordrecht, just south of Rotterdam.

Netherlands Noah's Ark

Johan Huibers poses with a stuffed tiger in front of the full scale replica of Noah’s Ark after being asked by a photographer to go outside with the animal in Dordrecht, Netherlands, Monday Dec. 10, 2012. The Ark has opened its doors in the Netherlands after receiving permission to receive up to 3,000 visitors per day. For those who don’t know or remember the Biblical story, God ordered Noah to build a boat massive enough to save animals and humanity while God destroyed the rest of the earth in an enormous flood. Peter Dejong — AP Photo

Gazing across the ark’s main hold, a huge space of stalls supported by a forest of pine trees, visitors gaze upon an array of stuffed and plastic animals, such as buffalo, zebra, gorillas, lions, tigers, bears, you name it. Elsewhere on the ark is a petting zoo with actual live animals that are less dangerous or easier to care for – such as ponies, dogs, sheep, and rabbits – and an impressive aviary of exotic birds.

“This boat – it’s amazing,” said Alfred Jongile, visiting from South Africa with his Dutch wife.

For Huibers, a builder by trade, it all began with a nightmare he had in 1992, when the low-lying Netherlands was flooded, as it has been many times throughout its history.

Huibers thinks that new floods are possible, not least due to global warming. He cites a New Testament passage prophesying that “the cities of the coast shall tremble” near the end of times.

But he’s not worried the whole Earth will ever be flooded again. In the Bible, the rainbow is God’s promise it won’t be.

“I had a call from American television,” he says, laughing. “This has nothing to do with the end of the Mayan calendar,” he said.

He said his motivation is ultimately religious, though. He wants to make people think what their purpose is on Earth.

“I want to make people question that so that they go looking for answers,” and ultimately find salvation through God and eternal life, he said.

Johan’s Ark also contains a restaurant on the topmost level and a movie theater capable of seating 50 people. Around the edges of each level of the craft are displays on ancient Middle Eastern history and dress, scenes from the life of Noah, and games for kids, including water pumps and a system of levers to lift bales of hay.

Down below there is a honeycomb system of hatches, each opening into an area where food could be sealed in for long-term storage.

There is an outdoor space near the stern with a dizzying series of stairwells. Walking around, Johan points out features such as the curvature of the upper deck, which he said would have been used to collect rainwater for drinking, as well as for letting animals such as horses out to exercise where they could run around.

Another visitor, Martin Konijn, said he was impressed with the level of detail.

“You might know the story of Noah, okay, but if you see this you begin to get an idea of how it would actually have worked in practice.”

Huibers says he’s considering where to take the floating attraction next, including European ports or even across the Atlantic – though the latter would require transport aboard an even bigger ship.

But Huibers is also working on a new dream, perhaps even more unlikely than the first one: he wants to get Israelis and Arabs to cooperate and build a water pipeline from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea.

“If you have faith, anything is possible,” he says.

Original Sun Herald article found here

Original BBC article found here

By Katia MoskvitchTechnology reporter, BBC News

Floating house, Colombia
A floating house in Colombia, modelled on a Dutch design
The recent flooding across the UK has seen hundreds of householders desperately trying to prevent water from entering their houses.

Most use the centuries-old approach of piling heavy sandbags at their doors and windows.

But what if your house was buoyant – rising at the same level as the surrounding water?

Earlier this year, Baca Architects was granted permission to build Britain’s first amphibious house by the banks of the River Thames in Buckinghamshire – one that rests on land, but in the event of a flood rises with the water.

The Environment Agency is interested in the idea of such floating homes, says the agency’s flood risk engineer Tony Andryszewski who often works at a flood test centre, set up to investigate new technologies for flood prevention and control.

The agency is keen on seeing how other countries approach the problem, he says, especially in the Netherlands.

The Dutch are widely acknowledged as having the best flood management technologies in the world.

Floating houses, Canada
Floating houses in British Columbia, Canada, are designed differently from the ones in Holland


Even the flood forecasting software used by the Environment Agency, Delft-FEWS, has been developed by the Dutch.


Such know-how is not surprising – much of the Netherlands’ land mass is below sea level, and even the country’s name reflects its low-lying topography,

Since the 12th Century people have been draining delta swamps and creating artificial dry land – polders – at first using pumps powered by windmills.

Currently, there are about 3,500 low-lying polders enclosed by dykes in the Netherlands. They easily collect water from rain, rivers and the sea, and are constantly being pumped to keep nearby communities dry.

“The Dutch have built dykes for over 1,000 years,” says Jos Maccabiani from Flood Control 2015, a Dutch government programme charged with developing better information systems for managing floods.

“Since the last major flood in 1953, in which more than 1,800 people died, this system has been upgraded to very high standards.”

According to computer simulations, today’s defences in the Netherlands are supposed to withstand the kind of flood so severe that it would occur only once in 10,000 years, he explains.

There are dams all around the country, guarding all main river estuaries and sea inlets.

The Netherlands
Many Dutch live below sea level so flood management technology is vital


“Nevertheless, with the ever-increasing urbanisation of our polders and flood plains, spatial planning is increasingly combined with flood resilience,” adds Mr Maccabiani.

“There are projects under way where urban revitalisation of a city is combined with the widening of the river bed, lowering the peak water levels, and others that look into flood-proofing the country’s highway infrastructure.”

Ready to float?One Dutch technology that the UK is observing keenly is the “smart levee”, designed in the Netherlands as part of an EU research project, UrbanFlood.

Amphibious house designAn amphibious house rises with the water level – and sinks to its original position when the flood subsides

Sensors are put inside flood embankments, as an early online warning system and for real-time emergency management. The technology constantly monitors the condition of the levee, and sends a warning when it is weakening.

Another innovation that Britain has already started to adopt is movable river barriers – installed in the ground, they rise with the water.

Dutch floating houses are also on the Environment Agency’s radar, says Mr Andryszewski.

Homes on stilts are common in flood-prone countries such as Thailand, Burma and India. Floating houses of different designs exist in a few places too, namely in Germany, Canada, the US, and even on Taggs Island in the UK, where some 60 homes are attached to piles driven into the riverbed of the Thames.

But creating an amphibious home – placing a house on a platform that makes the house float in case of a flood – has only recently been looked at in the Netherlands.

In 2005, Dutch firm Dura Vermeer built several buoyant houses in the village of Maasbommel, along the Maas River, about 60 miles (100km) from Amsterdam.

House on stilts, MyanmarHouses on stilts have existed for centuries in flood-prone areas – like this one at Inle Lake, Burma

They rise as the water rises, keeping occupants and their possessions dry. When the floods subside, the houses sink to their original position.

The houses float on hollow pontoons made of concrete and timber. All pipes and ducts for water, gas, electricity, and sewage disposal are flexible and keep functioning even when a house rises several metres.

Unlike boats, the houses can’t drift away, as they are kept in place by sturdy posts set deep into the ground.

Currently, Dutch architectural company Waterstudio is planning to build an entire apartment complex on water, which it says could accommodate hundreds of people.

‘Sandless’ sandbags

Even if the UK doesn’t build floating houses any time soon, there are some innovations that could at least replace the heavy sandbags.

UK entrepreneur Richard Bailey designed lightweight bags that expand on contact with water – and also absorb it.

“It was first designed for the Ministry of Defence,” says Mr Bailey, explaining that his company FloodSax was asked to create an easily portable alternative to sandbags for the army’s bomb disposal unit.

Floods, UKTraditional heavy sandbags are still common, despite existing alternatives


“We put the bag into a barrage unit, the water comes in, gets soaked into the bag, the bag expands, blocking the water at the door.

“Or unfortunately when someone has been flooded, you can put it down in the house, soak up the water and the mud as well, so that you can get back into your house a little quicker.”

There are other firms offering similar technology, such as Thailand-based Nanotec or another UK company, HydroSack, and FloodSax’s bags are now being used in many countries across the world.

“Unfortunately though, they are still not as popular as the traditional sandbags, because not everyone is aware of the innovation,” says Mr Bailey.

But Mr Andryszewski is confident that the UK will continue to use more and more innovative technology – there are already numerous places that use watertight submarine-type doors, he says, and the flood test centre is busy experimenting with other original approaches to keep the land – and homes – as dry as possible.

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Find original article here

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, will feature large sandwich structures made with carbon fiber and aramid fiber and a vinyl ester resin matrix to form the laminate skins surrounding a foam core.
Posted on: 7/25/2011

Stedelijk Museum

Stedelijk Museum, carbon/aramid panels being placed.

Stedelijk Museum rendering

Stedelijk Museum, finished structure rendering.

Teijin (Tokyo, Japan) announced on July 20 that its fibers are being used in the massive composite panels manufactured for installation on the face of the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), creating what is said to be the largest composite building in the world.

A large part of the panels are already in place on what will eventually become known as “The Bathtub.” After coating, the white and seemingly floating construction, with its sleek finish and without any seams or details, will be the counterpart of the adjacent historic brick building from 1895.

Teijin produced and donated the Twaron (aramid fiber) and Tenax (carbon fiber) for the composite used to create the façade. The façade, designed by BenthemCrouwel Architects, consists of a single surface and covers an area of about 3,000m2/32,291 ft2. A solution was required that would minimize thermal expansion of the material in order to obtain a seamless effect. The design, development and production of the façade required creativity and input from several experts.

An analysis provided by the engineering firm Solico showed that an optimal solution would consist of a sandwich construction. The construction consists of an inner skin and outer skin of a composite laminate of resin, strengthened by Twaron and Tenax fibers. Where the resin expands as the temperature rises, both Twaron and Tenax fibers, due to their negative longitudinal thermal expansion coefficient, behave oppositely. The result is a composite panel with minimal thermal expansion.
The composite for the seamless façade of 100m/328 ft expands by only 1mm/0.04 inch per degree Celsius temperature rise. The same façade based on a fiberglass composite or aluminum would expand almost two and a half times as much.

For production of the panels, Teijin provided Twaron and Tenax fibers to Holland Composites. A unidirectional fabric was produced from the fibers as an intermediate product. Holland Composites produced the panels for the façade from the fabrics, vinyl ester resin and a foam core. The inner skin and outer skin of the sandwich construction consist of two Twaron fabrics with a Tenax fabric in between. The fibers are perpendicularly oriented to each other.

In all, the façade consists of 271 loose elements containing 4,850 kg/10,692 lb of Twaron and 4,050 kg/8,929 lb of Tenax. The panels are mounted on site and glued together using a connecting laminate in order for the façade to form a single unit.