Dutch architecture practice UNStudio has transformed a typical Dutch townhouse’s facade in brick made from stainless steel and glass for Louis Vuitton’s new store on Amsterdam shopping street PC Hooftstraat. Located next to The Looking Glass — also designed by UNStudio — the brick pixelation façade expresses a detail-oriented interpretation of textiles, embodying the intricate, crafted details epitomized by couture clothing.
While the facade is made of custom casted stainless steel bricks with glass inlays at the pedestrian level, it transitions across the second floor back to the anthracite brickwork of a traditional Dutch townhouse. As such, this veil of stainless steel bricks can be experienced differently from relational distances, while keeping in step with the architectural heritage of Amsterdam.
“These neighboring facade projects that we have designed for the P.C. Hooftstraat are principally concerned with contrasting and crafting the detail through scale and materiality,” explains Ben van Berkel, founder and principal of Amsterdam-based architecture practice UNStudio. “The design of the facade for 140-142 intentionally employs a more sober scale of detailing to its neighbor. At 140-142, steel bricks inlayed with glass are crafted to refine and compose the details, creating a contemporary interpretation of the traditional bricks found in Dutch townhouses. And while the windows of 138 span multiple floors and protrude outwards, those of 140-142 slant inwards and are brought back to the townhouse scale on the second floor.”
While the finished result is sensitively subtle, much experimentation was undertaken to find the correct brick size, transparency and lighting components that could create the appropriate effect on the surroundings. Although the overall sizes of the stainless steel bricks are the same as typical bricks, by tapering and softening the edges, the stainless steel bricks have a refined and intricately detailed appearance, with manually glued glass inlays.
The stainless steel bricks are cast in different sizes, following a similar pattern to the traditional brick facade on the upper levels. The individual stainless steel bricks are precisely mounted onto larger steel frames, then installed on site. Operable glass windows behind the steel brick facade allow for maintenance and cleaning.
The residential entrance door is composed of the same stainless steel bricks, but with an opaque glass inlay, ensuring privacy in the apartment entrance area. The stainless steel door handle and doorbell are also custom-designed to integrate into the overall facade appearance.
The white steel window frames continue into the interior. Slanting the glass panels emphasizes the dynamic of the white frames, a detail which is also continued in the smaller first-floor windows.