MVDR Pushing Boundaries and Making Place.


The newly revealed Chanel flagships store in Amsterdam has caused a well received stir in the Architecture world. The Crystal House as it referred to has grabbed the attention of not only the Architecture world but the general public and popular society. The striking glass facade is pushing boundaries in many sense of the saying. The clear level of transparency achieved creates a facade ideally suited for its purpose of a retail outlet. The traditional language creates windows that frame the garments while the glass bricks allow a total viewing of the store from the exterior. This blurring of envelope pushes the life of the store onto the street and creates a continuum to the exterior and interior that is subtle yet highly effective.


The careful attention the place in the articulation of the facade is what makes this building amaze. This innovative glass structure, with its extensive technological advances as a new material does not overpower or set to stand apart from its neighbouring buildings. Instead it is intricately knitted into the existing fabric of its street. The brick disperses as you rise up the facade into terracotta bricks that express the residential units above. The new material is used to replicate the window details and facade expression of the street. The building is a perfect example of the importance of place in approaching a new build. It also displays the large room for creative expression that can be found within that. That you are not restricted in your construction methods or palettes but that you use the knowledge of the past to enhance your design and allow it to knit into the community it wishes to enhance.

Creating a transparency that can be achieved with a traditional articulation of facade create new questions in the definition of boundaries. This Crystal House is in fact a retail unit, not a house. So what does an actual Crystal House do for the question  of the domestic boundary. Could a new material such as this be used in an effective manner to create a transparency within a dwelling situation that could be desirable.

Relating this project back to my thesis begins to form some of these queries. There is a need in elderly housing for surveillance and an aspect of transparency in living to provide a security net both physically and mentally, Your proximity to your neighbour becomes an open discussion and not a wall building exercise. Could a material that can achieve contextual harmony while providing a desired level of tranparency be utilised in such a setting. Or could such visual honesty be more a hinderance that a help.

The combination of contextual delicacy and radical construction innovation in this successful design has allowed MVRDV to push the architectural industry a step forward.

MVRDV replaces Chanel store’s traditional facade with glass bricks that are “stronger than concrete”


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