The project by Nio Architecten is part of a residential neighbourhood of low-rise buildings running along the Hoge Vaart canal in Tussen de Vaarten, Almere, near Amsterdam.
Two distinct groups of buildings are here deliberately contrasted. The first, a sinuous row of five 3-storey blocks, follows the Hoge Vaart canal for its entire length of 400 metres. Each block overlooks a reflective pool of water separating it from the road and canal. The five blocks contain 119 innovative style apartments.
The second group comprises eight housing rows, of either two or three storeys, set at right angles to the first group. While smaller than the long buildings along the canal, the second group is also landmarked by a small watercourse running through its midst. The 79 residential buildings of this second group are more traditional in style and layout.
The group of five blocks overlooking the canal presents two façade types, each of which relates differently to the surrounding built environment, colours, water, landscape, and nearby roads. The distinctive horizontal lines of the southwest elevation engage with the water and canal.
A wide platform-cum-boardwalk runs along the base of the buildings, jutting out slightly over the water to create a veranda and artificial garden for the ground floor apartments. The horizontal theme is repeated by continuous bands of semi-transparent glazed glass between the rows of windows. Together with the narrow vertical cladding panels, this motif gives the impression of veiled transparency. The effect is further enhanced by a wooden stringcourse projecting out over the glazed sections to provide sun shading. In sharp contrast, the brick clad northeast elevation presents a uniform frontage.
The façade is broken only by vertical windows and the entrances to each dwelling unit. Long distribution corridors and multiple staircases have been eliminated in these five long buildings. Each unit gives directly onto the road and individual stairs lead to the upper levels.
Every home occupies the full building depth of 15 metres. The narrow fronts are aligned in medieval style while inside there are 21 different apartment sizes, the largest 186 sqm. The use, where possible, of natural materials and low energy consumption systems reduces the carbon footprint of what the designers have nicknamed the “TwoFace” complex on account of its two contrasting façades opposing opacity and transparency, lightness and rootedness, the vertical and horizontal.