Dutch architects use glass bricks, glass windows frames and glass architraves to create a retail store that kicks out against increasingly bland high streets
On 19 April the glass doors of Crystal Houses in Amsterdam opened, a visionary exploration into reimagining the possible uses of glass in construction. The entirely transparent façade of a high-end flagship store on Amsterdam’s upmarket shopping street, PC Hooftstraat, uses glass bricks, glass windows frames and glass architraves in a way to evoke the vernacular of the area with the goal to maintain the character of the site. The 620 sq m of retail and 220 sq m of housing, were designed for investor Warenar. The design unites the ambition of Amsterdam to have large distinctive flagship stores without compromising the historical ensemble.
he project, conceptualised by MVRDV, was developed and constructed as part of a multi-team collaboration including Gietermans & Van Dijk Architects, Delft University of Technology, Brouwer & Kok engineers, ABT consulting engineers, Poesia (brand of Vetreria Resanese) glass manufacturers from Italy and contractor Wessels Zeist.
MVRDV’s Crystal Houses began its existence with the request of Warenar to design a flagship store combining both Dutch heritage and international architecture on the PC Hooftstraat, Amsterdam’s one and only luxury brand street that was previously primarily residential. MVRDV wanted to make a representation of the original buildings and found a solution through an extensive use of glass. The near full-glass façade mimics the original design, down to the layering of the bricks and the details of the window frames, but is stretched vertically to comply with updated zoning laws and to allow for an increase in interior space. Glass bricks stretch up the façade of Crystal Houses, eventually dissolving into a traditional terracotta brick façade for the apartments (as stipulated in the City’s aesthetics rules), which appears to be floating above the shop floor.