distribution of design tasks; katwijk inner harbour project

After 25 years of practice, I was one of three architects invited to propose a scheme for the renovation of the inner harbour area of the town of Katwijk in the Netherlands, an area close to the town centre. The municipality of Katwijk was the client working in close cooperation with three local building companies and a national bank as investor.

They asked for an integrated plan for a large number of dwelling units combined with facilities like retail space and other commercial space and sufficient parking.

My plan was unanimously preferred after one meeting because it combined two important aspects.

1) The proposal offered a vision of the expected kind of environment without defining the exact final result. It allowed various ways of execution done by other architects, which satisfied an important request from the municipality.

2) The proposal defined the envelope for built volumes which made known its capacity for residential units, parking and commercial functions. This made calculation of the costs for execution possible before the actual partial designs were done.

I was asked to work out the Master Plan within which were defined building heights, the parking garage and other infrastructural elements like stairways and elevators that, in turn, could be translated in rules and constraints within which architects had to work. After approval of the master plan I was given the supervision of the designs done by the yet to be invited architects.

Together with the municipality and its  partners I organised an excursion to several coastal towns in the north of France, to show that a general building height of seven floors need not result in the massive uniformity that the municipal representatives worried about as long as the buildings were designed by a variety of architects working on a variety of locations. In Le Havre, Rouen, and other towns we could see how narrow parcels make height of buildings a relative concept. This after all is also typical for the buildings along the Amsterdam canals. The excursion also helped to strengthen social contacts which made for a stimulating experience in spite of the different interests of the participants.

The architects to do the buildings were selected by the various client parties. I could help steer it as well. The invited architects had to accept the detailed constraints of the Master Plan.  At that time, this offered  an entirely new concept for practicing architects. The actual process towards the final design approval included workshops chaired by me. The designs were discussed every two weeks with all architects present which stimulated all participants. The beginning was somewhat difficult; the limitations set by the Masterplan and its rules were seen as a handicap. Gradually this was forgotten, particularly when it appeared that good architecture usually had its own rules and limitations, that were often self-imposed. Eventually everybody subscribed to the final result.

For myself the workshops were a great experience. This way of cooperation subjects individual effort to the quality of the whole. It is no longer only about the individual identification of each architect. The project as a whole is central.

Ten years after completion I like to visit the Katwijk Inner harbour.  It seems too me a real achievement that a residential project combined with shops and trades and  hidden parking has become an environment of which no one knows exactly anymore who did what. I would like to do it again any time.

Hans van Olphen,  Master Plan and design supervision