Landscape architecture as a link in the cultural change of the banking industry The completion of the ING head office, Cedar, was the first step in the transformation of this larger urban district. In 2015, ING bank decided to relocate its head office within Amsterdam Zuidoost. ING has turned around the long-held image of banking as one of hierarchy and formal working environments. The emergence of fintech and online banking is changing the way bankers work and the staff they need. ING is creating a working environment that encourages creativity, co-creation, inspiration, and informal collaboration. The new building, and the landscape in which it is embedded, facilitate this cultural change. The building is transparent and accessible to everyone. The ground floor contains catering and public functions that can be used by all. The building also houses small companies, while the surrounding landscape connects the city and the workforce. With 2,700 employees, Cedar aims to add a lively and inspiring place to the city and return a piece of the urban landscape to the residents of Zuidoost. Karres en Brands designed the landscape around the building as part of a larger urban development campus vision: Amsterdam Innovation District/Cumulus Park. This vision outlines a city campus whose synergy between companies, spin-off businesses, public functions, the public space, and buildings creates a pleasant and dynamic residential environment. It would mean a complete change in direction for this part of Amsterdam Zuidoost, which is now mainly characterized by monofunctional office buildings and car parks. The landscape around the building adds a unique, open environment to the series of public spaces in Amsterdam Zuidoost – an area in private ownership yet accessible to the public 24/7, with an open, green, and hybrid character. The landscape is designed as a green, urban oasis with walking routes that connect the buildings, and a wealth of places where you can sit and enjoy the sun as well as squares and terraces. The height difference of 3.5 metres between ground level and the raised traffic-way, in both the building as well as the landscape, creates interesting spaces and connections. It also creates a rice terrace landscape with grass terraces, routes, and stairways and an abundance of seating options that invite people to stay. The landscape offers a series of venues for larger and smaller events. There is space for activities such as outdoor working, informal meetings, brainstorming sessions, and speeches, as well as public programming such as an open-air library, fitness workouts, yoga clinics, and public art exhibitions. The entire landscape is car-free. The building’s traffic access is via the multi-storey car park for over 400 cars and a huge bicycle parking facility, both of which are at ground level yet beneath the landscape. The ING Cedar landscape marks the prelude to the urban transformation of the area and has already helped in the redesign of the adjacent Bijlmerdreef traffic-way, the re-development of the adjacent plot, and the redesign of the public areas at ground level. This is an urban transition, approached from a landscaping perspective. The landscape undoes the previous introversion of the buildings and renders them extrovert. The landscape invites everyone to use it. More about Mss Breeam Outstanding and ecological communities As a result, both building and landscape received an Outstanding BREEAM-NL sustainability rating. Cedar aims to add a vibrant and inspiring area to this part of the city. The area is as said, privately owned but open to the public 24/7. The entire landscape is entirely car-free. The building’s traffic access is via a large car park for over 400 cars and a large bicycle parking facility, both of which are at the ground level yet beneath the landscape. A clever piece of work that created space for a green urban garden that now serves as the heart of the area. The landscape is designed as a green urban oasis with walking routes that connect the buildings, and an abundance of places where you can stay and enjoy the sun as well as squares and terraces. A sheltered zone east of the building is used for water infiltration, flora and fauna. This zone has been seeded with a floral mix of native species, aligned to the food and nesting habits of local bumblebees and butterflies. The zone will be a white, blue, and purple flowering meadow from spring to autumn. Wooden shelters with nesting boxes for jackdaws and sparrows are located between the dispersed trees to rehouse the birds that used to nest in the former situation. 80 jackdaw and 50 sparrow pairs now have a sheltered area in the landscape. Various insect hotels have also been installed. An infiltration facility has been incorporated to ensure that excess rainwater permeates gradually beneath the floral meadow. As well as providing spaces for varied user-groups to come together (workers, visitors, residents, passers-by etc.), attention was paid to ensuring this new park performed a climate adaptive function, benefitted existing, and encouraged establishment of new, ecological communities. A generally enriched treescape and a sheltered zone in the east of the site provides a focus for water infiltration, local micro-climate management and the provision of foraging and shelter opportunities for a range of bird, mammal and insect species. This area has been seeded with a mix of native wildflower and grass species tailored to the requirements of local pollinator insects and providing a vibrant white, blue and purple flowering meadow from spring to autumn. Shelter and nesting boxes have been provided amongst the trees to house 80 Jackdaw and 50 Sparrow pairs resident in the area and insect hotels encourage an active insect population. Excess rainwater runoff is contained in an infiltration facility that allows it to gradually permeate through this new, buzzing floral meadow.
Since 1997 Karres en Brands has worked on diverse projects, studies and competitions, both at home and abroad. Our work encompasses every scale of spatial design, from area strategies and infrastructural projects to parks and gardens, and from urban planning assignments to product design. With this we rely on our enthusiasm and craftsmanship, and we continuously broaden our outlook towards developing appropriate and innovative responses to the challenges of today.
With a view to a sustainable, comfortable and healthy living environment – now and in the future – we envision important undertakings in design. Challenges such as climate change, energy issues and demographic developments require a smart and thoughtful approach. The trick is to not generate fixed conceptions, but rather to create powerful conditions and to leave room for spontaneity. We make plans with a robust structure in which space is given to natural and human processes.
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