Architectural studio GROUP A renovated 16 metro stations of the Amsterdam Eastbound Line. Our aim was to create modern, pleasant to use, metro stations by building further upon the base of the existing brutalist DNA. The 'Oostlijn' runs from Central Station to Amsterdam South-East, partly underground and partly above ground. There is a lot of variation between the station buildings, but there is a cohesion in the design through consistent use of materials, detailing and lighting. The Oostlijn was designed in the 70s as a ‘total design’ by van Rhijn and Spängberg. Architecture in brutalistic style; art, station furniture, signage, fonts and trains were specially designed for the new metro. Because of the total design, the stations were vulnerable to change. Over the years, the original concept has become confused. The ad hoc modifications have obscured the rigid architectural composition, resulting in cluttering. The overview within the stations and the findability of the accesses was also poor, so that the (experience of) social safety left much to be desired.
Adding new materials
The starting point for the design is the creation of contemporary stations with a strong identity that function well, are well organized and pleasant to use. This was achieved without denying the original brutalistic character of the metro. The existing base was supplemented with new, contemporary materials. Concrete has been stripped of its coloured coating and replaced by a transparent coating (anti-graffiti) and illuminated to enhance its original character. During the renovation, damage and traces of use arose, an imperfection that was embraced. The representation of history by these 'scars' gives the stations their own character. This form of design, in which there is concentrated control that imperfection is 'perfect', characterizes the design of metro Oostlijn.
New contrasting materials such as glass, glazed tiles and a polished floor have been applied, compared to the unpolished character of the béton brut. Because a monochrome, calm use of colour is part of the design vision, different gloss lines and iridescent effects were chosen for more liveliness. Signage, people, metro, advertising and art provide colour. The tilework is provided with a high quality ‘white’ glaze. Each tile has an individual drawing with iridescent effect, visible in certain light reflections. Tactile experience has been important in the choice of all materials. For example, all surfaces that travellers physically touch, such as handrails and benches, are made of hardwood. It is these kinds of nuances in materialisation that make a big difference.
Future proof design
The beauty of the renovation of the Oostlijn is the use of the original DNA, reinforced by daylight and an integrated design strategy for signage, art, services and commercial spaces. The public character of the Metro is enhanced by the addition of carefully designed commercial spaces and station furniture. All 'cluttered' elements are brought together and integrated into clusters, which provide clarity. Clusters are adaptable to future changes. Everyone agrees that the stations feel lighter, that there is more overview and that social safety has increased. This clear strategy for the design of the stations creates peace and consistency and is a good basis for the next 30 years.
Recognising the quality of stations of the last century and addressing their problems is an acute and important task in the renovation of these metro lines. Well thought-out spatial interventions such as voids and extra transparency and the addition of rich materials have greatly increased the appreciation for Metro Oostlijn. The humanly attractive public transport serves the city in many good ways. The human component in the renovation of the Oostlijn is a story of attention to scale, usability and interaction. By creating characteristic places from transfer spaces, the existing metro reappears and its value for the city is revealed.
All 16 stations are different, the first step was to transform the design vision into a generic design. This consisted of a set of general non-specific design interventions. The most important ones are:
- Transparency: Transparency has been added to stations by creating large voids at the entrances. This creates an overview between different levels and increases the sense of security of the passengers. It brings daylight deeper into the station halls, allowing for natural orientation.
- Clusters: All signage, advertising and ticket sales elements are clustered at central locations, well-lit and immediately visible. Clusters are based on a modular design - easy to maintain and adapt to future changes.
- Empty floor: Floors are kept empty because clusters are integrated into the walls.
- Indirect lighting: Wall and ceiling-oriented spotlights emphasise the spatial qualities of the original stations. For the above-ground stations, with high concrete ceilings, a light line is designed with integrated spotlights, cameras and loudspeakers.
- Colour: Starting from a monochrome base, the colour is used strategically. In addition to wayfinding, colour is used to emphasise areas in the space that require attention: entrances, ticket sales, information and vertical connections.
- New materials: In contrast to the original concrete surfaces, new materials such as glass, hardwood and glazed tiles have been added. Rich materials that are easy to clean and evoke a feeling of comfort.
- Identity: Patterns and names of stations are designed in the modular system of wall tiles to create an Oostlijn specific ‘alphabet’. This graphic layer binds and strengthens the overall Oostlijn identity.
The project was carried out on a limited budget, without interrupting normal commuting. After almost ten years of hard work, the Oostlijn is now again a functional, understandable and pleasant addition to the public space in Amsterdam.
GROUP A is a Dutch studio for architecture, interior, urban and product design. The office, founded in 1996, is led by Folkert van Hagen, Adam Visser, Maarten van Bremen and Diederik Erkel, and employs 31 designers and 5 support staff. Our portfolio comprises a broad range of projects. In the past twenty years we have worked on offices, industrial buildings, housing projects and redevelopments.
We are convinced of the need to treat interior design, architecture and surrounding urban landscape as mutually interactive parts of any design solution. Our office has a flat organisational structure that stimulates all employees to contribute their talents, know-how and experience, in order to continually improve the qualities of the office as well as each individual.