The Gymnasium House

Robbert de Goede worked to convert an old inner-city gymnasium into a livable space, an architectural wonder of a home set in a quiet part of Amsterdam.

  • area / size 6,673 sqft
  • Year 2019
  • Location Amsterdam, Netherlands,
  • Type House,
  • This started with the request of a client to develop an old inner-city gymnasium. He wanted to sell the property and requested us to come up with good ideas. The building’s front door is situated in a very small and quiet street in the old center of Amsterdam.

    We studied the neighborhood, researched the specifics of this densely populated area and came to the decision to develop the building into a home instead of a place for business. This would mean far less pressure on the neighborhood: less traffic, better for reachability and local environment and a far more peaceful use of the garden. Soon a buyer was found who chose us to finish the job.

    A new foundation was laid so we could start with an empty space. We installed a heat-exchanging system in the 26 20 meter long foundation-piles, put 44 solar panels on the roof bringing the home close to 0 emission.

    The main space is 3/5 of the gymnasium, making it perfectly square. A walkway around the square floor opening connects the first floor rooms. This creates the vertical traffic and communication in the house. The 10 skylights bring a flood of daylight to the ground floor. The open court is crowned with a 3m Ø LED-ring. The only circular architectural form in the building.

    After stripping the building we found a lot to work with. Brick walls and beautiful steel trusses inspired the choice for new additions. The new floor is a steel structure with similar detailing: the connections between the beams and the way the steel is laid upon the bearing walls. The new steel facades use similar detailing. The ground floor ceiling is a copy of the original ceiling of the slanted roof. A transparent and honest language.

    The long railing of the stairs, the doors and window frames on the walkway are all Yellow Cedar. The finish gives an extremely soft sensation when touched. This was inspired by the work of Japanese sculptor Shimpei Arima, who makes touchable Cedar sculptures meant for comfort. The brushed Larch, the reused Oak floor, the 4 reused central columns, the ultra soft Alpaca rug are in line with the embedded idea that architecture needs to be touchable: the third skin. Even the Eucalyptus finish for the closets have a nice and distinctive odor.

    Early in the design the use of plants was integrated. A garden is visible from the master bathroom and from many sight lines in the house. A huge tobacco plant was placed as a central and vertical piece.

    Over 100 LED-light fixtures were used in the very extensive lighting design.

    The objective was to design an intimate, livable home. This resulted in a minimal, industrial approach towards the architecture and a very personal approach towards the finishes. This reflects the clients as well. The owner of a fashion brand and a pediatrician. A great client for an architect: easily accessible, great trust in the designer, a creative, open mindset with a sense of responsibility to the future.

    Design: Robbert de Goede
    Contractor: VKV Restaurations
    Construction: van Eden Bouwconstructies, Amsterdam
    Photography: courtesy of Robbert de Goede