Raising the Roof at Schiphol-Noord
A glistening example of conservation lies in Amsterdam’s award-winning Schiphol-Noord Transport Node which features a repurposed aircraft hangar from World War II Britain. THINK CITY takes a bus to meet the designers of the station.
Story by Maya Tan
On an average day, the Schiphol-Noord transport hub in Amsterdam sees about 92 busses pass through per hour, transporting about 16,000 passengers daily. It is the result of increased demand for a hub and transportation system that connects more than 15 bus lines and allows for switching in all directions of the Schiphol region.
Spurred by the city authorities governing the Metropolitan Area of Amsterdam to construct a new station, the task fell to the Royal Schiphol Group, the company that owns Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Conscious of maintaining high standards of sustainability in all of their undertakings, the group sought out Claessens Erdmann, a company specialising in the design of consumer environments with sustainable methods, to fashion the bus station.
The idea of repurposing the old airport hangar came about by fortunate coincidence.
Built in Britain in the forties, the type T2 hangar was sold in 1958 to the municipality of Rotterdam and served at the Rotterdam Airport for many years.
“The Rotterdam Airport had been using the hangar for a long time, but they were about to dispose of it when the proposal for the bus station came about. As the Schiphol Group has a stake in the Rotterdam Airport, they got to know about it and the rest is history as they say,” said Sander Bos, of Claessens Erdmann, the project manager who oversaw the construction of Schiphol-Noord.
“Schiphol needed to construct a bus station with a canopy, and as the Rotterdam Airport was going to demolish and dispose of the hangar, it made sense for us to take it over and repurpose it.”
The serendipity did not end there.
“Because the hangar was built during the war, it was designed to be easily dismantled and transported,” he said.
The hangar was then disassembled and moved to Schiphol for construction in 2014 and in little more than a year, the station was completed, launching in May 2015.
While the bus station serves an important function, by far the most significant characteristic of the station is its visually stunning design. Minimal in essence, the station’s open structure inspires a feeling of space, movement and awe reminiscent of the atmosphere at the world’s best-designed train stations, both new and old, around the world.
The roof has been fitted with 138 LED lights that flash in all manner of patterns and light projections in the night, creating the opportunity for customised messaging and motifs, while white downlights provide functional lighting on the platform and colourful uplights illuminate the canopy from below.
New furniture was designed for the station for waiting passengers taking into consideration the ergonomic characteristics of the Schiphol airport bench, and includes a footstool and element for optional leaning or sitting.
A small lounge, with contemporary wooden slats of untreated Iroko wood to regulate temperature, resembling a designer lodge in the woods, offers reprieve for weary bus drivers.
There were very few challenges in constructing the station, with the only exception, natural wear and tear of the original airport hangar.
“When we received the original metal trusses from the hangar, many of them were rusty and so they had to be replaced or refurbished, but most of the original materials were retained,” said Sander.
“We then fitted new materials with the original trusses, but spaced further apart to accommodate the size requirements of the station.”
The original parts of the hangar have been washed in red paint, while the new parts of the structure in grey to delineate new from the old.
In 2015, Claessens Erdmann received the award for Innovation at the Dutch Architecture Awards.
The roof of the Schiphol-Noord station hosts 22 clusters of 20 solar panels and generates enough energy for lighting, electronics and other needs, rendering it self-sufficient, while energy-saving lighting is deployed throughout the station.
A digital indicator takes up a special space at the front of the drivers’ lounge and control room, informing officers and curious visitors alike how much energy the station is generating and consuming at any point in time.
A convenient "kiss & ride zone" has been allocated for motorists and large motorcycles dropping passengers off to avoid traffic congestion, while ample parking is available and a large bicycle rental is twenty paces away, offering a green alternative to feeder transportation.
“Although the entire cost of the bus station amounted to 31 million euros, the cost of acquiring the hangar was completely zero and this goes back to the policy of sustainability that we needed to uphold; we managed to save on the cost of acquiring brand new materials.
“The remainder of the budget went to transportation, refurbishment and the construction of the furnishings and finishing of the entire site,” Sander said.
The cost of the station was borne by the Metropolitan Area of Amsterdam, the municipality of Haarlemmermeer, the Royal Schiphol Group, the province of North Holland and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment.
The Schiphol-Noord station is, for Sander, a great example of heritage preservation in the 21st century, integrated with the sustainable processes essential for today and tomorrow.
“The biggest thing I learned was really not from any high tech or advanced process we came across in building the station. It was the idea that the old airport hangar was designed to be easily dismantled and transported so that it could be reused, perhaps in a different location.
“This is the thinking that we as designers need to consider - designing something not only for its current but also future use.”