MVRDV interchanges clay and glass bricks for Chanel's Amsterdam flagship

AMSTERDAM – 'Brands want transparency,' says MVRDV's Winy Maas, referring to the physical rather than ethical clarity. Behind him, his office's innovative glass-brick store allows a shimmering view of the product offering of current occupant Chanel – without compromising the character of the Amsterdam street.

'Consumers like to shop in places with a local identity,' explains Maas, who hopes his solution can provide an antidote to the epidemic of anonymous glass shopfronts sweeping the world. 'Our idea was to do something that fits in with the streetscape of this formerly residential neighbourhood, while giving brands the kind of interior they want – high ceilings, a flagship-like space, and a glass façade to show off the product.'

The project required the demolition of two 1890s houses, which were carefully rebuilt (in a stretched form to create more space) using bricks of moulded glass held together with transparent glue. Towards the top of the building, the glass bricks morph into their traditional counterparts to front a separate apartment, in line with the city council’s building regulations.

The lofty 620-sq-m interior offers plenty of possibilities, although the present tenant's design does look a little clunky alongside the ethereal glass shell. Maas mentions that his suggestions of glass and mirrors for the interior design fell on deaf ears, and the store surely deserves better luck with its next occupant. Meanwhile it remains, in Maas's words, 'a typical Dutch compromise'.
 

Photos Daria Scagliola & Stijn Brakkee

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