Van der Pol looks satisfied – at least on the computer screen. ‘Because Zuidas has quite an austere and commercial look and feel, we were determined to create a building with a certain amount of frivolity and swing. This is reflected in the use of colour, with a lot of yellow and orange, in the tiered terraces and the unusual shape.’ The design team took inspiration from a swaying summer dress and this is clearly reflected in the final result.
Green and sustainable
The design was also intended to be green and sustainable. ‘Since there’s very little greenery in the immediate environment, we wanted to add it to the glass façade in De Boelegracht. The fact that there’s a bowl on the roof that connects rainwater and waters the plants is also a good example of that.’ A sense of togetherness was another area of focus. ‘We liked the idea of the residents having somewhere they could sit and chat. Overall, our aim was to realise an attractive residential building that meets today’s standards. Healthy and elegant.’
The team that worked on The George included a lot of women architects, which is still unusual in this sector. Did that have an influence on the design and process? Van der Pol is not so sure. ‘I think it does create a certain amount of dynamism, but it wasn’t really an issue for us.’ Van der Pol was more aware of the issue in 2008 when she began a three-year term as the first female Chief Government Architect. ‘It was an issue insofar as I considered it to be quite serious that a woman had never held the position in the previous two centuries. It was a great experience, but ultimately my main aim is for my buildings to keep pace with the times. At Dok architecten, our focus is therefore always on distinctive designs.’
During the design process for The George, everyone was full of enthusiasm. ‘Zuidas is a special place. International, dynamic and diverse, but also slightly detached. The brief was quite a challenge because we wanted to create a counterpoint to that commercial aspect.’ At the start of the design process, the team comes together and engages in some free association, painting and sketching. ‘Although we always keep the end-user in mind – in this case the future cosmopolitans who will be living in The George – this phase involves an awful lot of creativity. You’re not inhibited by the technical parameters, so you can let your imagination run free and push it to the limit. Ultimately, you all agree on a final idea and then develop it further.’
The design for The George was embraced by the developers BPD and AM. ‘On the day that you hear if you’ve been awarded the brief, there’s always a healthy but tense atmosphere in the office. If you get the job, it’s definitely something to celebrate. It’s also great when people understand what your design aims to achieve and acknowledge that you’re capable of conveying that cheerful, warm and sustainable look and feel.’ When the definitive design is complete, it’s all about letting go and trusting in the skills of contractor BAM Wonen. Despite this, Van der Pol occasionally dropped by to take a look. ‘I live in Amsterdam Oost, so it’s not far. It’s always exciting to see how the design turns out in practice.’
When the keys were handed over, Van der Pol was not there in person. ‘But I do eventually intend to drop in on the residents. I’d like to find out how they like living there, what they think of the greenery and whether the communal areas work effectively. In the end, you’re doing it for them and not for colleagues. We might be delighted with the end result, but it’s not about that. Buildings, and especially one’s home, are defining factors in your life. The greatest compliment for me will be to hear people say that they love living in The George. Then our mission has been accomplished.’