Fritz van Dongen's "The Whale"

The “Whale” apartment complex located on Amsterdam’s Sporenburg Peninsula was designed by Dutch architect, Fritz van Dongen and completed in 2000.  The unique design generates diversity in an area of predominately traditional architecture. The idea behind the sloping rooflines and hollow center was to capitalize on natural sunlight throughout the entire building. The exterior façade is a combination of zinc plates and glass windows that cantilever up on two ends allowing for open passage underneath. The elevated floor also allows for natural light to cast through the ground and carry through to the private garden within the structure. The 170-unit complex utilizes all views from the interior private garden to the exterior views of water and public life below.

At first glance the building looks like a traditional square with excess of windows, but upon further investigation I really became intrigued with the shape that was formed with the sloping roof and ground lines.  I also found the placement of the non-uniform windows an interesting feature. Generally buildings with predominately glass facades have standard, uniform windows but this approach adds more uniqueness and complexity to the structure. By having so many windows placed throughout the entire structure it really does optimize the natural light and creates a nice solid and void.

I wanted to show how much of an impact the windows had on the rest of the building and to do so I cut out a model of one side of the Whale. The pictures below show the impact of solid and void and how when natural light penetrates the windows it floods through most of the apartment complex.  When standing in the center of the complex I imagine that the shadows casted create a nice composition when reflected on one another.  The model also shows the sloped roofline that comes together to create a hollow center.

Another intriguing aspect of the building is its unique resemblance to the surrounding waters. The zinc plates and glass windows share a similar color and reflectiveness that bounce off one another. The materials used are just another way that Fritz van Dongen created a monumental, inhabitable and functional sculpture that defines itself against the traditional surrounding neighborhoods. 

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