As the sun slowly sets, we are on the terrace section of the new roof garden of the ITO tower. Although the temperature and coronavirus are against us, it does not take much imagination to envisage people enjoying drinks, colleagues having lunch on the benches or holding a company barbecue. There is definitely enough room for all those things without it feeling unwelcoming. ‘It used to be like a jungle here’, says Associate Director Paulo da Silva Dias, who works for Savills, the company that manages the ITO tower. ‘It still looked nice, but a bit wild and much less inviting.’ A leak provided the owner with a good reason to set to work on the whole roof and give it a new look.
Peter van Leeuwen, owner of roofing company J. de Kluyver Dakbedekking Rhoon, turned out to be a great partner and strategic adviser. That mattered, because Da Silva Dias had a lot on his plate. ‘It’s only logical’, says Da Silva Dias. ‘When you get the opportunity to create a completely new roof garden, you need to do it properly from the outset and make sure it’s fully in line with modern standards.’ Van Leeuwen was therefore given a series of guidelines. Van Leeuwen: ‘The garden needed to be low maintenance, modular in construction, easily accessible, attractive to large groups, as sustainable as possible and there needed to be a place for a bee hotel. Of course, all of that had to be achieved within a set budget.’
They quickly reached agreement about the design. Clean lines, interspersed with plants that stay green all year round thanks to automatic watering, and a nice wooden finish. That was the plan. Unfortunately, there were some initial problems with the execution. Van Leeuwen: ‘In order to remove the old roof garden and replace it with a completely new one, we needed a lot of materials on the roof. New materials and rubble had to be hoisted up and down using a huge crane. The location, at the heart of Zuidas, proved quite a challenge. ‘In Mahlerplein, careful checks had to be made to see if it was even possible to have a large crane here, because there’s a big car park right next to the square.’ Da Silva Dias: ‘What’s more, this happened before coronavirus when it was much busier.’ Even when the transport method had met all of the conditions set by the council, they were still restricted to carrying out lifting work at weekends only.
But then coronavirus hit. ‘Terrible of course, but there was one minor advantage for us: because it was less busy, the council gave us the go-ahead to use the crane on weekdays in the square’, says Da Silva Dias. ‘This significantly accelerated progress on the roof garden, which explains why we’re now standing here on the completed terrace in December.’ Van Leeuwen and Da Silva Dias look around with satisfaction, proud of the result. Equally delighted is the organisation that leases the space adjacent to the roof garden. Their staff will reap the benefits of the terrace. Da Silva Dias: ‘In the future, we intend to see whether we can also open the roof garden to a wider public, for example on Open Tower Day. But that would have to happen in consultation with the landlord, so I can’t make any promises about it.’ The good news is that we still have the photos.