Crystal Houses, the Amsterdam store designed by MVRDV that received international acclaim upon its opening in 2016, has re-opened with a new tenant and a façade which is finally as open as originally intended. The project’s jewel-like façade was proposed as a way for Amsterdam to be home to distinctive, upmarket flagship stores without compromising the city’s historical character. Located on the high-end shopping street PC Hooftstraat, Crystal Houses initially hosted a temporary store for Chanel, but it has now been renovated and re-opened for French luxury brand Hermès.
Created for Amsterdam-based retail real-estate company Warenar, Crystal Houses was envisioned as a recreation of the traditional houses that make up PC Hooftstraat, with a dramatic twist: the usual brick façade is replaced by a glass replica, which dissolves into the traditional terracotta bricks on the upper level.
The effect required a period of intense research undertaken with the collaboration of TU Delft, engineers ABT, and contractor Wessels Zeist, and with materials provided by glass manufacturer Poesia and Delo Industrial Adhesives. The outcome was a dreamlike shopfront which combines the intricate complexity of traditional brick construction with the transparency of a retail façade.
However, due to the spatial requirements of the temporary Chanel store, the impact of this transparency was previously diminished by a blind wall on the first floor, behind the upper portion of the glass façade. In the new Hermès store, interior designers Bureau de Binnenstad removed this wall and opened the floor to the exterior, for the first time allowing visitors to see the dissolving effect where the glass bricks meet terracotta bricks close up – and finally taking full advantage of the transparency of the innovative design.