In 2021, Olaf Gipser Architects completed the innovative collective self-build “Stories” project in Amsterdam. Built largely from timber with a negative carbon balance, deploying open building principles in order to assure longevity, and combining human and non-human habitats, the 45-meter-high green tower addresses the challenge of communal, high-density, sustainable and healthy urban living.
Located in an exposed urban location in the post-industrial former harbor area of Amsterdam-Noord, in its current configuration the building combines 26 apartments and work-living units, a shared area with gym, sauna and urban farming, six commercial spaces in the plinth, including a café with social-cultural programming, and a ground-level parking garage.
The 12-story tower is fully built in cross-laminated timber (CLT) with the exception of the plinth and core, made of conventional prefab concrete. Loadbearing timber portals with large openings allow for spatial connection across the bays, facilitating flexible partitioning from one to six individual units per floor. Characteristic of the appearance of Stories is its deep façade, conceived as a microclimate zone providing extensive outdoor space in the form of balconies and winter gardens for all the dwelling units. It enacts a cooling effect on the building by casting shadow onto the façade and by accommodating 57 double-height vegetation units.
Nearly 1,000 m3 of timber outweighs the applied concrete and steel, resulting in a balance of -300 tons of CO2. Recognizing its pioneering achievement, Stories was selected as the site for signing the ‘Green Deal Timber Construction’, an initiative organized by the Metropolitan Region Amsterdam to stimulate an increase of timber-based housing development in the coming years.
“Stories gives space of transformation for a progressive community aware of the need to live differently, in a more inclusive, environmentally aware way, green and together. For myself, my family, my neighbors and my neighborhood, Stories offers a home to capture and bind this community and its stories. It is a privilege to live here.”
– Esther Sarphatie, resident/founding member of the building cooperative
“What makes Stories so special is that both the design and the living comfort have been raised to the highest level. Inside, you immediately feel and smell that this building is not made of concrete, and because of the wooden ceilings, the acoustics are immediately pleasant even without furniture and curtains. The wide terraces that run around the apartments are also very special; from every room, you can go outside between the trees on the façade and then enter again through any space. Inside and outside flow into each other, even in winter through the winter gardens – unique for a residential tower in the city! These terraces are shifted, creating an interesting interplay of lines that can be seen from the terraces and the street. In short, a beautiful building to look at and a wonderful building to live in.”
– Berend van Santen, resident/founding member of the collective self-build group