Europe’s top architecture award, the EU Mies van der Rohe prize, has for the first time been given to a renovation project: the DeFlat Kleiburg residential “megablock” in Amsterdam. Revamped by NL architects and XVW architectuur, it is one of the biggest apartment buildings in the Netherlands and was “saved from the wrecking ball” by turning it into a so-called “Klusflat”, meaning the inhabitants renovate their apartments themselves after the structural improvement work. It also offers a wide range of affordable housing, from fully subsidised and low-cost homes to shared ownership and rent-purchase schemes.
The structure is a vast bent slab in Amsterdam’s Bijlmermeer neighbourhood, transformed by the architects into a contemporary residential building with flexible internal planning and a design that connects better with the street and landscape. The main idea, however, is that the architects then leave the rest to the residents.
The jury selected the project for its collective spirit, which they considered to be “both heroic and ordinary at the same time”.
“It challenges current solutions to the housing crisis in European cities,” says jury chairman, architect Stephen Bates, “where too often the only ambition is to build more homes year-on-year, while the more profound question of what type of housing should be built goes unanswered. Kleiburg helps us imagine a new kind of architectural project, which responds to changing household patterns and lifestyles in the 21st Century. A revitalisation of typologies of the past is as relevant as experimenting with new, untested models in this quest, just as radically transforming existing buildings is.”
It was selected from a shortlist of five and a longlist of 355 buildings. The prize is €60,000.