Cycling for Everyone
Cycling for Everyone

Circular redesign of iconic bike flat Amsterdam offers plenty of opportunities

2 October 2023 - Author: Simone Jorink

The bicycle flat is an icon in Amsterdam and an important carrier of the mobility transition. Over the years, the number of people coming to the station by bike has steadily increased. This has led to a growing demand for bicycle parking in the immediate vicinity. For years, the bicycle flat answered that need by providing space for 2,500 bicycles right in front of the station. Originally conceived as a temporary solution, it served for over 20 years. Amsterdam Central Station now has a brand-new, permanent bicycle parking facilities. As a result, the bike flat has proved unnecessary. Removing the bike tower leads to two options: demolition or reuse.



Bicycle parking and sustainability come together in circular redesign

Their passion for the themes of bicycle parking and sustainability made studioSK decide to put the reuse of the bicycle tower on the agenda during a workshop session with structural and creative designers. The aim was to come up with a concept together in which we upcycle and make the current structure circular.

The bicycle flat: a robust concrete foundation with, above it, a spiral of floor sections circling around the steel pillars. Especially the parts above ground level offer opportunities for reuse. The concrete foundation poured on site, on the other hand, cannot be reused in a high-quality manner. Not only is the material itself unsustainable, but demolishing it has a huge environmental impact.

And so, the idea was born. The construction kit of steel columns and floor decks to be dismantled travel on a pontoon (just as they were delivered at the time) to a new location. There, the parking facility will again have a temporary character, but from now on it will be circular. It will be constructed in such a way that it can easily be dismantled. And the pontoon will serve as a foundation as well as a means of transport. This makes dismantling and rebuilding a real no-brainer on a subsequent trip. The new structure doesn’t have to be placed on water, it can also be placed on land. Which makes the opportunities endless.

Furthermore, the foundation houses a lot of greenery, purifies the surrounding water through a helophyte filter and contributes to biodiversity. The green character is enhanced by letting it grow upwards along taut wires. The foundation also provides space for possible new modules such as a (bicycle) repair café, and an area where you can moor for a while from a boat on the water.

Opportunities for a greener city

Back to current foundations, because studioSK also see opportunities there. Freeing the quay of bikes frees up a huge space that can be given back to the city. Envision a green public stay oasis using the former foundation of the flat. And that is a win-win situation. On the one hand, a win for the cost: removing the foundation will be by far the biggest cost, besides the environmental impact mentioned above. On the other, it is a win for the city: the area, dominated for years by paving, concrete and steel (as well as the steel steed, of course) will get a green oasis of tranquillity next to the water in return. The greenery on, and floating on the foundation, forms a fresh city garden in one place. Where, due to compaction, there is normally not enough space for this. Here too, the greenery has a purifying effect (helophyte filter) and contributes to biodiversity. In addition, low trees provide shade and cooling during the hot summers.

From Amsterdam icon to global inspiration

It has been an icon for Amsterdam. Perhaps not immediately the most popular, but every tourist took a picture of the ‘sea of bikes’ right in front of the station. Possibly the bike flat will get a second life in Amsterdam. But who knows, maybe it will then go to one of the other world cycling cities.

With these images and ideas, StudioSK hopes to inspire others and to really think about how we should all deal with scarce materials, and to look beyond our own agenda and interests. The current bicycle flat has become redundant for Amsterdam Central Station, but the circular redesign offers other cities a sustainable solution for flexible and sustainable bicycle parking.

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Simone Jorink

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