In the booming mid-1990s, there was an ambitious plan to develop a multifunctional urban complex of 90,000 square metres on the southern quay of the IJ-waterway, a short distance from Amsterdam Central Station. The brief called for underground parking for five hundred cars, a new High Court, a five-star hotel, apartments, new offices for the water police including a ‘drowned-bodies-dock’, commercial spaces and a the only inner-city marina Amsterdam has. In short, an enormous mass on a high-profile and highly visible site.
The unique form and skyline of IJ-dock was generated by carving out space to preserve view lines and connections between the seventeenth-century century canal district, the IJ, the Westerdok, Central Station and the iconic Shell tower on the northern shore.
The resulting building came out of a process of ‘reverse negotiation’ with the 26 client bodies and external parties like the ‘Friends of the Inner City’, who on principle oppose all new initiatives. But instead of a volume only to chip away at it with endless compromises, the IJ-dock considered the sound advice of Monty Python: how to not be seen; that is, from within the Amsterdam historical town, a UNESCO World Heritage site.