Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Building Engineering Studio
In collaboration with Djamo van Wamel
Rufus van den Ban
Planned by Johan Melchior van der Mey and built in 1911 in the Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam, the Palmenkas, originally a greenhouse for tropical trees, now functions mainly as an event hall and a tourist attraction. The building comprises two structural systems: a brick façade on the exterior, and perpendicular steel portal frames on the interior. These components support each other against bending stresses in two axes, ensuring the structural integrity of the building.
The most prominent feature recognized in our study of the structure is the inseparable connection between the Palmenkas's construction details and ornamentation (or, as we propose – ornamentation follows structure). This is evident in different parts of the structure: its three-dimensional brick patterns, where ornamental bricks smooth out the transitions between different depths of the walls and columns – according to the structural requirements; its steel beams, functioning not only as structural elements, but becoming the main architectural event of the interior, presenting a light and organic form studded with rivets in a customary pattern.
More than a century after the Palmenkas was built, the aspiration to allow the technical aspects of architectural design to become the theme for the aesthetic values of a building seems to remain relevant. This architectural sincerity, which is experienced without an intermediary, creates places that are more legible, and hopefully more approachable for their users.