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What about... New Amsterdam Court House

A jigsaw of natural stone, concrete, steel and glass

15 August 2017

The Amsterdam Court House is being given a new premises in Amsterdam’s Zuidas district. In due course, a modern complex encompassing office space, court rooms, interview rooms and a detainee area will be erected on the site of the old district court building. The New Amsterdam Court House (NACH) consortium, which includes Heijmans, is tasked with the implementation.

The demolition of the old building is now as good as complete, and the piling is the first job in the planning for the new building. On the threshold between ‘old’ and ‘new’, Site Manager Henk Duijzer and Design Manager Mike Zelke take a walk around the building site.

Detailed design

Mike Zelke is engaged in fleshing out the design. He was the first at Heijmans to be involved in the project when it started. “You kick off during the tender phase with a rough plan and a provisional design, then produce a definitive design, ultimately arriving at an implementation design. This will need to be fleshed out in great detail to ensure that we know exactly what we have to make, how the various elements fit in with one another and what needs to be ready and when.”

The issuance of the initial certificate marks the green light for the new building, making it a significant milestone for the project. “To this end, the client set a condition that we were to show 12 crucial rooms that had been devised fully integrated”, continues Mike. “In addition, we found that we had to flesh out the details of even more rooms in preparation so as to be able to start work on the new building in a responsible manner. We ended up with 30.”

Accurate to within a centimetre

Mike: “The structural design has been devised from the perspective of the user. Large spaces for the court rooms below and smaller spaces as work and meeting rooms above. From a structural point of view, it would have been easier to do things the other way round, but it’s about functionality. Aside from plenty of natural stone, we will also be incorporating a huge quantity of steel into the building: around one and a half times as much as the Timmerhuis in Rotterdam, for instance”.

Impressions of the new building show a linear design featuring large windows, lots of natural stone and glass balustrades. “The detailing on the façade in particular is extremely precise and cannot deviate by more than 2.5 centimetres over the full height. For that reason, the steel columns will be delivered in 20-metre lengths so as to minimize any deviation”, explains Mike. “It’s not without reason that we involved our purchasing partners for the façade, the natural stone and the steel structure in the project as early on as the tender phase.”

Logistical challenge

Another aspect requiring a high degree of precision is the logistics for and surrounding the project. “We have made detailed agreements with the local authority to ensure that all traffic movements around the building site can be performed smoothly”, says Henk Duijzer. This will be immediately evident to anyone visiting the project. Pedestrians will walk right next to the building site, cyclists will cycle up and down unperturbed. Business as usual in Amsterdam’s Zuidas district. Nevertheless, the traffic controller for the project is keeping his eyes open. In a firm but friendly manner, he is ensuring that everyone is able to cross the entrance and exit to the building site safely.

“Purely for the purpose of removing demolition material we’ve got 75 lorries and a total of 2,200 tonnes of loads a day”, calculates Henk. “We agreed with the council that there would be no incoming or outgoing construction traffic between 8 and 9 a.m. and between 5 and 6 p.m. At those times the place is swarming with cyclists, one long line of them. So we’re organizing things around them.”



Now that the demolition work is as good as complete, the work geared towards creating a building pit incorporating two underground layers will commence. To this end, the dam walls are currently being put in. The multi-storey car park will eventually occupy levels -1 and -2. The ‘cell complex’ is a major challenge. “We're having those cells prefabricated and transporting them to this site in their entirety”, explains Henk. “They weigh 10 tonnes each and will be hoisted into place one by one. The new building will comprise a total of 10 storeys above ground level. Once we get up higher, the structural work and the dismantling will be under way simultaneously in some locations. That calls for an integrated approach to the construction process. Particularly in view of this building’s high standard of finish. Ensuring it all comes together correctly and efficiently is really exciting. But you won’t hear me complaining. I love being the link between design and implementation.”