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‘Best New Skyscraper’ Mimics Nature: Looks Like 2 Mountains With a Valley, Water, and Greenery Between


MVRDV Valley © Ossip van Duivenbode

In the heart of Amsterdam’s business district, a lush green valley emerges from the rocky canyon walls of a new office building.

The dramatic, geology-inspired, plant-covered “Valley” stands out in Amsterdam’s Zuidas neighborhood with its three towers of 219, 265, add 328 feet tall (67, 81, and 100 meters), and its spectacular cantilevered apartments.

Named the best new skyscraper in the world in the 2021 Emporis Skyscraper Awards, the building distinguishes itself in several ways: firstly, it combines offices, shops, catering, cultural facilities, and apartments in one building; secondly, unlike the closed-off buildings elsewhere in the Zuidas, the green valley that winds between the towers on the fourth and fifth floors is accessible to everyone via two external stone staircases.

The architecture firm MVRDV, who specialize in dream-inspired projects, describe the design and construction of Valley as “utterly bespoke,” requiring the sustained commitment of hundreds of designers, engineers, builders, consultants and the client.

The enormously complex shape required a special commitment to fine detailing that further enhances the design concept. MVRDV’s technology experts created a series of custom digital tools to perfect the building, from a tool that ensured every apartment had adequate light and views, to a program that made possible the apparently random pattern of over 40,000 stone tiles of varying sizes that adorn the building’s façades.

MVRDV Valley © Ossip van Duivenbode

Each of the 198 apartments has a unique floorplan, made possible by the interior designs by Heyligers Architects. And the outlandish cantilevers of the towers are possible thanks to innovative engineering, including eleven steel “specials” bolted to the concrete building that take the overall appearance to the next level.

A huge green element is present in the structure, not least of which is a watercourse right down the middle.

Landscape architect Piet Oudolf hand picked which species are to be located where. Trees are largely found on the lower floors, while the uppermost levels mainly support small plants. In total, more than 271 young trees and shrubs and approximately 13,500 smaller plants occupy the natural stone planters, representing 220 different plant species.

“When choosing Valley as their winner, the jury was particularly impressed by the skyscraper’s extraordinary and innovative architectural design,” explained Emporis.

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“The building’s three peaks seamlessly switch between a sheer glass facade and protruding stone-clad windows and balconies resembling a rocky mountain surface, while the center holds a publicly accessible terraced valley, from which the building owes its name.”

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MVRDV Valley © Ossip van Duivenbode

In the coming years, the building will mature into the lush appearance of the design team’s vision as the greenery continues to grow. The biodiversity of this landscape is further supported by bird and bat boxes as well as various bee and insect hotels. Maintained using an automatic irrigation system and by “façade gardeners,” the trees and plants on the terraces will positively affect the well-being of people living and working in Valley.

This isn’t the first valley that MVRDV have created. La Vallée Verte serves as a 144-space residential complex in Bordeaux built to look more like an old, greened-over volcanic caldera rather than a rocky canyon.

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