A series of new canopy structures weave their way through the city centre in Almere, a new town just outside Amsterdam. The canopy, along with a flower stall form a series of interventions critical to the commercial success of the city.
Almere is the Netherland’s newest city, located alongside a lake and sits raised above surrounding ground level as part of the city master plan. Due to its location and the particular concentration of tall buildings, the resulting wind tunnel effect was deterring residents and customers away from the main shopping mall.
Canopy structures, that aimed to create minimal intervention, were designed by DunnettCraven in conjunction with Techniker and developed and optimised from wind-tunnel studies with Peutz. The elements to be integrated into the cityscape were treated as well-detailed furniture and designed to be unobtrusive and easily maintained. All the forms are self-contained to reduce the apparent impact on surroundings.
The city centre was modelled in the wind tunnel and calibrated against existing conditions. The various interventions were tried and tuned to mitigate against gusting. Each element was carefully considered in terms of shape, size and location with the form following as directly as possible from the technical requirements. This led to gust speeds being reduced by as much as 50% in critical areas. The project was a great opportunity to create a structural form closely related to context and function.’ Matthew Wells, Techkniker
The buildings surrounding the new canopies are of commercial use at the lower floors and residential at the upper levels. A constant varying ground plane characterises the areas where the canopies were erected with access to the site limited and canopy locations only reachable by pedestrian routes.
In addition, a two-storey underground parking space extends below the majority of the site, including public transportation routes. The grid of the existing structures dictated the setting out of the new canopy columns with connecting geometries between superstructure and car park. The main canopy is 82 meters long and 24 meters at its widest point.
A grid of primary and secondary components was developed based on the capabilities of heat-tempered glass, essential for economy. The form resolves the connecting grids of surrounding super-structures and car-parking levels below and includes large openings for landscaping.
In both canopies the top glass surface does not form a continuous surface. Although the roof was not intended to be a full shelter it could not drip after a storm and so a drainage system was integrated into the design. The general principle is to direct the rain collected by the glass surface along the steel members towards the hollow steel columns. The tapered columns are downpipes, made in stages and clad rather than formed as true cones for economy. Temperature effects are controlled by flexing within the system. The roof run-off had to be tied into the existing drainage system at ground level.
All the fixings, fabricated gutter beams and plate beam sections are hot dip galvanized and painted including sheet for the column casings.
The resulting, carefully detailed canopies are an elegant solution, structures pared down to a minimal composition of tapered columns, gutter beams and frameless glass.
Image: James Newton, Alejandro Menendez