The Dutch architecture firm, Wurck, has completed an underwater bike garage next to Amsterdam’s central station, with glossy white interiors submerged nine meters beneath the surface of its famous canals.
Connected directly to the city’s metro and railway system via six escalators, the underwater space is reportedly the first of its kind in the world, providing parking for around 7,000 bikes
Wurck was awarded the project following a competition by Amsterdam’s city council in 2018 and sought to make the underground facility a bright and inviting extension of the urban realm above, which has also been subject to a wider regeneration project.
“The bicycle parking is part of a larger project known as De Entree, which is renovating the entire area of the station,” explained Wurck founding partner Oriol Casas Cancer. “Essential in the renovation was redefining the public space by increasing the amount of water,” he added. “Celebrating the monumental character of the station and its position on an autonomous island was also a strong ambition,” he adds.
The path that navigates users into and through the bike park is lined with a 140-meter-long glass panel, alongside maps and nautical-themed artworks created in collaboration with design office Multitude and the Amsterdam Museum, while the rough stone-and-concrete entrance gives way to a vast hall of glossy white mushroom columns that frame the bicycle parking spaces, illuminated by oculus-style light fittings that simulate underwater skylights.
“The design is a tribute to the water,” explains Cancer. “All forms are fluid. Walls, columns, stairs, and glass walls are curved.
Wurck chose this contrasting material palette to mimic the feeling of opening a craggy oyster shell to reveal its clean white interior.
“The entrance is an extension of the public space with dark and robust materials like natural stone and basalt, like the shell of the oyster,” he explained.
“The interior is bright, light and white like the interior of the oyster, with a central ‘pearl’ of curved glass facades where the facilities of the concierges are located.
An automated system allows cyclists to use electronic gates with their transport cards, enabling swift and efficient movement along the curved routes.
According to Wurck, people bring their bicycles into an imaginary oyster with a rough exterior of basalt and natural stone and a smooth, bright and light interior. In addition, the theme has been at the basis of the wall art and the circular lighting fixtures in the ceiling of the main corridor.
Elsewhere, maps of Amsterdam in different eras have been created in collaboration with the Amsterdam Museum. These maps are made up of ‘pixels’ from photos and paintings, and they cover one entire wall of the facility, called the ‘horizon’. These images, like those in the ‘oculi’ – as the circles in the ceiling have been named – show the connection to the city of Amsterdam.
Additionally, making the facility comfortable to use was also a main point of the design. The parking facility is located deep under the surface and that could make it unattractive to use. Bringing in daylight and using bright, high-quality materials should give the inside of the bicycle parking facility a pleasant and welcoming feeling.
To make it easy to know where you are the main path of the parking has been designed as a “colonnade” (a path between pillars) which connects to a direct underground connection to the metro station and from there to the train station. The workshop and the place where the manager can supervise the facility is the “pearl in the oyster”, according to Wurck.
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