Located in Amsterdam’s Dam Square, the De Bijenkorf department store was first built in 1909 as a gorgeously cresselated neo-gothic structure pierced by a distinctive central turret. Since it was built, that tower has been mostly for show, but thanks to a partnership between the interior architects i29 and the nearby Rijksmuseum, De Bijenkorf is now turning the tower into a beautiful design haven. Called the Room on the Roof, the De Bijenkorf tower has been transformed into a bright, modern design studio, complete with a kitchen, a day bed, a sitting room, and a telescope.
i29 wanted to create a design that brought together two different worlds in a single space, playing with scale and perception like something out of Alice in Wonderland. Consequently, the approximately two-story tower has been split right down the middle into separate halves, designed to inspire whatever artist is currently inhabiting the tower.
Ensconced in clean unstained birch, on the one side of the tower is a multi-tiered living space, which includes a small kitchen, an office, and a bedroom. To get between rooms, you climb a ladder. On the other half of the tower is an airy, wide-open sitting room, so white that, in contrast to the organic wood, it almost looks like negative space. There, an artist-in-residence can sit and have a cup of tea while looking out the windows at the beautiful Dutch skyline. Both tower halves are brought together by a wrought-iron spiral staircase, which transfixes the tower and leads up to its cupola.
“The biggest challenge of designing the space was simply the size of the floor area: just 16 square meters,” i29 directors Jaspar Jansen and Jeroen Dellensen told me by email. “That was one of the reasons why we ended up with a vertical installation, which creates a ‘living cabinet’ that allows artists-in-residence to experience the tower on different levels.”
According to De Bijenkorf, the tower stood unused for more than a century. After being approached by the Rijksmuseum, the famous Dutch department store decided to open it up to a different artist, designer, writer, architect, or musician every month.The first artist to use the studio will be artist Maarten Baas.