The Superlofts Journey: from a local project to an international adventure
Superlofts is a system for living that puts people in control with a flexible, modular, co-creative approach to the ultimate urban space: the loft. It is the Superloft’s mission to become the most sustainable and socially inclusive housing model of the future. Follow our journey below and explore the innovations that we have brought to life.
Using an Open Building approach, MKA developed the Superlofts concept in a series of buildings co-created with grassroots cooperatives in urban regeneration areas in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Delft and Groningen.
The design and concept of Superlofts was refined with each project, beginning with Casco Lofts and moving through several plots in Amsterdam’s formerly industrial harbours of Houthavens and Buiksloterham. Blok Y took the concept to Utrecht. After years of hard work co-creating the lofts from the ground up, MKA began developing the next generation of Superlofts in cooperation with partners.
MKA refined the design and concept of Superlofts with each project, beginning with Casco Lofts and moving through several plots in Amsterdam’s formerly industrial harbours of Houthavens and Buiksloterham. Blok Y took the concept to Utrecht. After years of hard work co-creating the lofts from the ground up, MKA began developing the next generation of Superlofts in cooperation with partners.
Superlofts has its roots in House like Village, a residential retrofit that MKA designed for a single loft space in an industrial harbour area of Amsterdam in 2011. Starting with an open shell, MKA created a flexible interior based on the clients’ domestic rituals and ideal day. The result was a house designed like a small town: several house-like volumes contain the bedrooms, bathroom, and storage, while the “streets” and open spaces are used flexibly for playing, working, and reading. Dining, cooking, and office work take place on elevated “roof terraces” that feel intimate and yet airy.
The design was widely acclaimed, leading to MKA re-apply the concept in Casco Lofts, an experimental development in another industrial harbour area, Amsterdam’s Houthavens.
Houthavens Plot 1 & 2
In the midst of the financial crisis, with large-scale development stalled, the city government was searching for housing cooperatives who wanted to build their own homes. MKA created an Architects collective, DeHoofden, along with de Architekten Cie, Thijs Asselbergs, Space Encounters and Hootsmans Architectuur Bureau to cultivate a grassroots community of people interested in co-creating their own affordable homes from scratch.
There was no developer; the project was financed by the future owners and the architects, reinventing the financial model, the sales model and legal framework of residential real estate in Amsterdam
The collective designed a building based on Open Building principles, in which the structure is separate from the infill. Apartments were prepared as shell-like boxes stacked on top of each other. MKA and Space Encounters, among other architects co-designed the interiors with each owner. The result was a collection of diverse lofts.
The casco-lofts are generally 5.7m wide, 18m deep and have two lofts of 75m2 per floor, which can be subdivided in two smaller units of 35 m2. 5m high ceilings allow to build in 70% extra suspended floorspace using a 10cm thick CLT floor and suspended steel structure, that can be configured freely. Acoustic measures are taken at the floor and staircase touch points to prevent sound-leaks. The building is 30m tall and the elevator only stops at every second level, so there are just 5 stops and 10 floors. Plot 1 & 2 was built by ERA Contour.
Houthavens Plot 4
The next project, Houthavens 4, was the first official Superlofts. In spite of the sluggish economy at the peak of the financial crisis in 2012, the city government had awarded MKA more plots, where they developed the design concept further and improved it by shifting the core to one facade, allowing for even more flexibility and multi-level lofts: some cover a whole five storeys.
In Superlofts Plot 4 the loft design was improved to be 18m deep with a wider bay of 6.6m that provided more generous and flexible floorplans flooded by daylight. Moving the smart main core to the facade allowed for more diverse and modular combination of loft types, varying from one to five lofts per floor with 5m tall ceilings using the Superlofts suspended CLT-floor system in each loft. Superlofts Plot 4 was built and co-financed by ERA Contour.
Houthavens 4 won the Best Housing and Directors Award at the World Architecture Festival 2017.
MKA then took the Superlofts concept to Buiksloterham, another industrial area in Amsterdam’s Noord. As with Houthavens, it was initially an area where few people wanted to live, but MKA gathered together a community of pioneers eager to have the freedom of co-designing their own home for an affordable price. Superlofts helped put Buiksloterham on the map and were a catalyst in the area’s regeneration and continued popularity.
All Superlofts have high ambitions for sustainability, with “smart facades” that incorporate natural ventilation, passive heating, sun shading systems and rainwater drainage all cleverly hidden in the window frames. In Buiksloterham, which has a strong circular economy, the lofts are energy self-sufficient, with the owners managing a communal geothermal heat pump.
For construction a prefabricated concrete wall system was used. Lofts are 5m wide, 18m deep and have 5.5m tall ceilings, which allowed a more affordable 25cm thick traditional wooden beam floor to span from wall-to wall, or the highly efficient Superlofts suspended CLT floor. The mezzanine floors creates an average 70% of extra floor area. The project was built and co-developed by Vink Bouw.
Blok Y, at the edge of a highway and a postwar suburb of Utrecht, came next. Here the aim was to realise the modernist dream of universal and accessible architecture in a contemporary way by embracing customisation and radical flexibility. MKA created hybrid buildings with diverse apartment types based around the needs of 30 different households: families, single young professionals, people who work at home, seniors.
The mixture of people creates social diversity in the building and the surrounding area, and the Superlofts bring all these people together with a shared garden and entrance space. Blok Y won the Architectenweb award and Royal Institute of Dutch Architects Building of the Year 2018.
MKA co-developed Blok Y together with Stichting Blok Y (Theo Stauetner, Herald Roelevink, Parcifal van den Berg), the cooperative of residents and Vink Bouw. Following this period of grassroots development, Superlofts evolved through three projects developed in collaborations with partners: Fabrick in Almere, Superlofts Delft, and Superlofts Groningen.
Next generation Superlofts
The next generation Superlofts are pushing the boundaries of Open Building (sustainability, flexibility, and affordability.) We’re exploring off-site manufactured timber structures, integrated ecology and water retention systems, as well as new ownership and rental models as part of our mission to become the most sustainable and socially inclusive housing model of the future.