Orange Architects has won the tender for Plot 42A, located in the heart of the harbour on IJburg in Amsterdam. With this winning scheme, called ‘Jonas’, the city has chosen a highly innovative residential building with a spectacular interior that has achieved the highest possible sustainability label (Breeam Outstanding).

The design for the 29,000-m2 mixeduse programme was commissioned by Amvest and developed in collaboration with Site urban development, ABT, Felixx landscape architects and Floor Ziegler.

The name Jonas is a reference to the legend Jonas and the Whale, a tale about adventure and intimacy, and about shelter, security and homeliness inside a ‘big body’. Jonas is a sturdy building with a warm heart. Jonas is also an iconic, sustainable and attractive structure that stands out from the surrounding buildings – even by virtue of its special siting on the strip of land and the remarkable programme it contains. The building shapes themes that matter here: water, quayside and maritime craft. At the same time, by embracing the ‘soul of the site’ and rendering it visible, Jonas looks like it belongs here.

The irregular composition of window openings gives the impression that they undulate gently across the facade. That makes Jonas just a little bit different: slightly distorted, slightly strange. The building is like a stone, but made of black timber; the grid is not regular but distorted; the facade does not stand on the ground but is raised; the building is not orthogonal but lozenge-shaped. That makes the building both familiar and alienating, sculptural yet rational, recognizable yet innovative.

But the real surprise with Jonas is revealed inside. It is welcoming, warm and spectacular. It expresses a modern and sustainable community life. The interior is compelling, surprising and surrealist. The underlying spatial concept is based on traditional timber ship construction. A series of trusses arranged in a row forms the skeleton, the building’s main structure. This allows big hollows to be scooped out of the volume, with the required housing programme incorporated into the ‘skin’ of the building.

Connecting various spaces and functions – the rock, square, swimming pool, living room, canyon, forest, mountain path, beach and mirador – to one another like links in a chain creates a magical world in which to live or visit. This is accessible not only to the building’s residents but also to the people of IJburg. Besides the exciting communal spaces inside the building, various supporting commercial facilities are housed in the ground-floor plinth. These are not bland offi ces but distinctive functions that enhance the world of Jonas. Facilities with a clearly sustainable and community profile appropriate to IJburg.

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How generous can you be! The doors are open, and the living room and forest are accessible to the public. During the daytime, everybody can visit the canyon or stroll around the harbour through the building. During the summer, the building and surrounding spaces become a venue for all sorts of activities: swimming in the sheltered natural swimming pool, watching a fi lm from the rock (projected onto the front facade of the building), playing beach volleyball on the square, or sunbathing on the rooftop beach. During the winter, the building is like a warm and welcoming fi replace glowing in a living room. A Christmas tree on the square, skating on the pond, refreshments from the pop-up kiosk beneath the rock.

The result is a sound and coherently programmed building that breathes life into this strip of land. A building people can visit and where people can come together. A real heart for IJburg.

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