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New courthouse almost in use

It marks a wonderful moment and Chris van Ghent, designer of public spaces, agrees. ‘Of course, the building itself is great, but if the street around it does not have the same look and feel, something will be missing. That’s why, as the City of Amsterdam, we have a duty to ensure the area is in order and reflects the splendour of a new building.’ When it comes to that, we are always last in line. ‘Designing a public space to match a new building, in this case the new courthouse, always starts at a much earlier stage, of course, but we cannot actually begin the work until the construction routes are no longer needed.’

Specific approach

Every building calls for a specific approach and has its own possibilities and limitations. Van Ghent: ‘Naturally, we also have a certain style and look and feel in mind, and we’re applying it consistently in Zuidas. But each sub-project is unique, which means we never have exactly the same approach.’ In this case, achieving openness and functionality was one of the most important tasks Van Ghent gave the design team. ‘The new courthouse has a different function from an office building or housing. Accessibility and safety take priority here. That was why a deliberate decision was made not to have trees and bushes in the area around the courthouse. Despite this, Van Ghent still added a few plants where possible. ‘Of course, it needs to look good and have the same level of quality as the attractive square in front of it, where the huge artwork ‘De Poortwachter’(The Gatekeeper) now stands.’ A short distance away – across Parnassusweg and between the Atrium and the new courthouse – a crossing for pedestrians was recently added. It is intended to provide a safe walking route to and from the courthouse. At the crossing, we will also install a warning system for approaching trams.

Courthouse by night
Marcel Steinbach

Not an easy job

The access to the courthouse – actually a ramp – from the higher Parnassusweg to the courthouse located 3 m lower was also our responsibility. Cyrus Clark took care of the design, and the execution was the responsibility of project manager Jeroen Frelink and his team. It was not an easy job, as he recalls. ‘It was actually a sub-project in itself because it required a lot of calculations in advance. This was necessary because part of the old structure remained intact, leaving a cycle path parallel to Parnassusweg, running underneath the access road, that also needed to remain usable’. It took a while to work out how to do it, but the exit from Parnassusweg to the new courthouse was completed on 20 October 2020. ‘I think the elegant railing has proved particularly successful, and I like the fact that the ramp has been executed in the Béton brut style of architecture. It’s an excellent match for this area, where there is a lot still remaining in that style,’ says Frelink, proudly.

The ramp to the courthouse – October 2020
Marcel Steinbach

Temporary buildings

Thanks to the underground car park, the courthouse is now ‘self-sufficient’, and the temporary car park and temporary courthouse building will be dismantled. The dismantling of the temporary car park – next to the new courthouse – will start on Monday, 29 March 2021. The work is being done in three phases and will last until 14 May 2021. The preparation work, which will start on 29 March, will be hardly noticeable. However, the actual dismantling will involve slightly more transport through Fred. Roeskestraat and could cause noticeable vibrations in the area. We expect to start work on the removal of the temporary courthouse in Fred. Roeskestraat before the summer. Further information will follow in due course.

The square in front of the courthouse
Marcel Steinbach

The Future

The area around the new courthouse – the Parnas area – will be further developed in the future. The ramp and road will then provide access to the new buildings that will be built here at a later stage. Further information on this continued development is expected to follow in the summer. The public spaces will also be updated in the future. When the under-tunnelling of the A10 – part of the Zuidasdok project – has been completed, the area around the courthouse will be given its definitive landscaping. At that stage, there will be more room for greenery and natural stone seating on the embankment between the new courthouse and the A10. When exactly this will happen will depend on the schedule for Zuidasdok.

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