Bringing PoMo Back: MVRDV’s Cultural Cluster Is a Classic Exemplar of Wild Dutch Architecture

The new mixed-use cultural center in Zaanstad, the Netherlands, will combine architectural motifs from the historic Zaan House

Sydney Franklin Sydney Franklin

The city of Zaanstad in the Netherlands is incredibly culturally connected in terms of architectural continuity, and it’s getting more detailed year after year. Since 2001, the downtown area has undergone a series of developments, transforming itself into a style similar to the nearby Zaanse Schans, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its historic windmills and uniquely shaped homes.

Rotterdam-based firm MVRDV won a competition to design a new cultural center for Zaanstad, a building that combines architectural motifs from the historic Zaan House with the need for a central public space in the heart of the city. The firm recently released a compelling new fly-through video that illuminates their vision for a complex packed full of Postmodernist wit:

The 7,500-square-meter [80,700-square-foot] Zaanstad Cultural Cluster will sit on a raised pedestrian square, neighboring the main train station, city hall and the famous Inntel Hotel — three structures that also mimic the traditional Zaan style in different ways. The cluster itself will be hollowed out at the core in the shape of a giant Zaan house.

MVDRV co-founder and principal Jacob van Rijs describes the space as an “urban living room.” “We started with a compact volume and then turned the typical Zaan house inside out,” he said. “On the exterior façade, a wallpaper motif contrasts with interior spaces clad in the green wooden façades so typical of the Zaan region. The characteristic shape of the Zaan house returns as the shape of the building’s main atrium void, a cutout within the larger volume.”

The building will house five cultural institutions: a film house, library, performance center, pop music center, music school, design center and local radio station. Each will receive its own space within the silhouette of the Zaan house and will be identified by different colors throughout the building.

This peculiar, site-specific structure integrates various sustainable technologies within its compact design to achieve the highest energy efficiency possible for its various programs.

The city of Zaanstad hopes the building will become an example of best practices in maintenance, life-cycle costs, financial management and social security. The site will also include an underground road and bike parking area.

For more on this and many other MVRDV projects currently under construction or recently completed, check out our special feature “How Architecture Is Born: 7 Dynamic Diagrams by MVRDV and the Buildings They Inspired.

All images and video courtesy of MVRDV