Red oak warms the atmosphere at the new Amsterdam School of Music
The new Amsterdam Music School designed by Frits van Dongen from the studio de Architekten Cie. forms part if the Erick van Egeraat development plan for Amsterdam’s Eastern Dock, a complex of residences, offices, hotels and shops to plans by twelve internationally renowned architects. Standing in a strategic position in close contact with other cultural buildings, the new Conservatoire is structured according to function as three different nuclei rising conceptually, floor by floor, from the collective to the individual, from the extroversion of the performing areas to the intimacy of rehearsal and study rooms. The first impact is with the great entrance hall, auditorium and canteen, then four storeys of school proper with classrooms and, on the top two floors, the rehearsal rooms, library, reading room and offices. The building structure is in cement, steel and glass, with large windows onto the outside world flooding the premises with daylight. Nestling inside is a shell of wood, a material chosen by the architect since it best expresses a physical transposition of musical warmth. The main timber is American red oak, the most plentiful of American broadwoods, accounting for over 35% of the total broadwood forestry heritage. Van Dongen has here used it for ceilings, walls, floors, staircases, furniture, doors and inside window frames. By seeking a variety of different suppliers, and not treating all surfaces in the same way, he achieved differences of colour shade on the various wooden surfaces. The foyer floor in irregular untreated slats of 9x90 cm gives a sense of rugged strength, contrasting with the broad highly-finished expanses of ceiling and floor which have been fireproof-treated and then oiled to warm reddish-brown tones. From the fifth storey upwards red oak reigns supreme: on the inside walls of rehearsal rooms, in the classrooms opening onto corridors, themselves in the same material, with storey-high varnished window frames, not to mention the acoustical double-doors in red oak veneer.