The Dutch firm HOH Architecten have a delightful way of describing the two buildings they have recently restored and renovated in Amsterdam for The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) of the University of Amsterdam. They refer to them as twins separated at birth. The two canal houses on the Oude Turfmarkt, no.145 and no.147 are located in the heart of Amsterdam’s city centre.
“They were built as identical twins. Separated from each other during their youth. Living their own lives as if they had no relation to each other. Reunited again after three centuries. Looking for differences, looking for similarities,” said the architects.
IAS is a centre for interdisciplinary research that brings together young international scientists to generate ideas, broaden knowledge and develop new research methodologies. Biologists, sociologists and economists work together on topics such as climate change, immigration and financial crises. In addition, Nobel Prize laureates are invited to discuss urgent interdisciplinary issues. In other words, it’s a pretty important brief these two buildings need to fill.
HOH used the rich history of the buildings as inspiration for the build and the subsequent architectural transformation. They looked specifically at the mirroring of the buildings, the continuous reconfigurations that they had undergone over their history. Different uses and different owners left their permanent marks. The facade of no.147 was completely replaced in 1882. No wall, floor or ceiling were identical anymore. The buildings had been reduced to a collection of rooms in which there were always two with the same proportions, one in no.145 and one in no.147. This gave HOH a handbook to reconstruct the bones of the space and at times intervene radically to make changes where the brief required it. They also took inspiration from the characteristics the Institute expects from their scientists; such as reflecting, redefining and discovering and introduced them as spatial principles in the design. An architectural play between physical and visual, old and new, reality and perception. This they believed would ensure that both users and visitors would redefine their way of interacting, working and collaborating.
HOH worked with the qualities they found in each individual room and worked with this during the construction process. As a result, IAS has not acquired one dominant house style, but has become a mix of different styles, each room being unique and attuned to the new function, with its own materiality and atmosphere. Precisely through the cross-fertilization between different styles, users and spheres, IAS has acquired its own identity and the final unity between the twins, much like our own individual personalities was found in diversity.