Category : architecture

two houses in front of european parliament brussels

Europe and its two houses

The European Parliament is situated in the center of the European Quarter in Brussels. Adjacent to the main entrance are several steel framed EU office buildings clad in aluminum and glass. On a rainy day, this will look depressing for sure. But today, the sun reflects in the glass facade and leaves beautiful shadows on the boulevard, which runs from the north to the south. On the other side of the parliament building, a beautiful park, Parc Leopold, is situated. There is a small lake with century old trees around it. When we look towards the west, we see more trees and the oval shaped glass and steel structure of the European Parliament. This building majestically rises from its surroundings. Whether you like the architecture style of the parliament or not (I happen not to like it), you can see the grandeur-ish style architects had in mind. Let’s go on. Just in front of this side of the parliament, we see two smaller buildings. They look like houses. And they look not so well-maintained either. In fact they are not so well-maintained houses…

What?!

Houses?!

Yep. To my surprise, two almost neglected houses are located several meters (!) away from the European Parliament. Must be a joke right? These houses must be old and architecturally unique, used for expositions or anything else except being used by actual families?

Nope.

These houses are not so old, not so well maintained and still used as family houses today. My question is: Why spend hundreds of millions of euros building the European Parliament without buying out these two families… Or are these two family houses symbol for Europe as we know it today? Europe: A want-to-be worldwide power which just isn’t…

Note: I snapped this picture last year (May 2010) during my first visit to Brussels, Belgium. At that time, I just couldn’t believe what you now see on this picture (above). Last week I was reminded of this picture again because of my second visit to Brussels.

OneMinute – Stadium Arsenal Football Club

During the past years I visited many football stadiums. Not because I like football that much. No, I just like to check out the architecture (and my brother is the biggest football fan out there, which definitely comes in handy). I went to some of the biggest stadiums like the ones of FC Barcelona and AC Milan, visited stadiums with a great history like the Fulham Stadium in London and went to very advanced stadiums like the Amsterdam Arena which has a removable roof.

This summer I visited the stadium of Arsenal Football Club in London (or Emirates Stadium as it’s named officially). It’s not the biggest stadium out there (it seats ‘only’ 60.000 people), it doesn’t have the biggest history (it opened in 2006) nor it’s the most advanced stadium (it doesn’t have a removable roof so to speak). Nonetheless, the Arsenal stadium is one of the most beautifully designed stadiums I ever visited.

Just to mention a few; I love the curved roof, the exterior glass and the concrete walls in combination with the Arsenal-red. Although many stadiums are (sadly) designed like bunkers, this one seemed very transparent. Please enjoy OneMinute number twelve.

Supermarket pick-up point obsoletes traditional supermarkets


I read an interesting article the other day. Albert Heijn, the largest supermarket franchise of the Netherlands is busy developing a new strategy for selling groceries online. To date, online grocery delivery services are generally more expensive and aren’t viewed as an alternative to traditional supermarkets. With this move, everything could change. After all they’re by far the largest supermarket in the Netherlands.

So, what’s this new strategy? Instead of delivering groceries right to your home, they decided to… wait for it… not deliver groceries to your home. Huh?! Makes no sense? Well, actually it does. First of all, we’re talking about a 600 million dollar business for Albert Heijn (which operates in both the United States and Netherlands). Currently the online business doesn’t account for a profit. Within years, sales should be up to 2 billion dollars and they hope to make a profit. According to the company, selling groceries online is a profitable business. However, this profit evaporates during the last kilometer of the delivering process.

“Delivering groceries to peoples homes is expensive. Also, the customer needs to be at home to receive the groceries”, a spokesperson said. “It is more easy to order groceries by using your smartphone and provide us with a time and desired pick up location.”

That’s why the company is developing a system of thousands of supermarket pick-up points scattered throughout the country. To make this system profitable, they need to dramatically increase their sales. Since this supermarket is market leader, these developments could mean a breakthrough and offer possibilities for other (online) supermarkets as well. I think Albert Heijn just made the traditional supermarket obsolete.

Last week I wrote about the need of a new urban model. I briefly mentioned Albert Heijn (AH XL). I wrote:

Companies continue to scale up. […] Supermarkets like AH XL (large Dutch supermarket) and distribution centers only need a few strategic locations in order to serve the entire country.”

So let’s take a look in the future. First of all, supermarkets only needs a few distribution centers. Furthermore, thousands of supermarket pick-op points are created in the entire country (a supermarket pick-up point could even add value to certain properties, just as a nearby Starbucks store does). It will be possible to order your groceries via a dedicated supermarket app on your smartphone or tablet computer, provide the supermarket with a time and location, pick up the groceries and bring ‘em home.

The Google refrigerator

A short while ago, I read about Google developing a refrigerator that is intelligent to know when it’s running low on certain groceries and ordering them from online grocery delivery services. Back then I thought it’s a waste of research dollars. But if you connect the dots (online supermarket, an app, thousands of pick-up points), think about the possibilities. Imagine the refrigerator being connected to your online supermarket app. The moment you’re running low on certain groceries it adds the item to your app (it might even search for the lowest available price. After all, it’s Google we’re talking about!). You only need to approve buying the item, after which it will be delivered to your desired supermarket pick-up point. That’s life made easy…

NB. Albert Heijn is owned by Ahold. This Dutch company also owns AH XL, AH to go, Gall&Gall, Etos, Stop&Shop, Giant, Martin’s and Peapod. It operates in several countries, including the Netherlands, United States, Germany and Belgium.

Did you know that he current office vacancy rate in the Netherlands is approximately 14 percent and may increase to 24 percent by 2013 should all major office users decide to adopt the “New World of Work” style.

Less office space needed

A new urban model (part two)

Wednesday I wrote about the need of a new urban model. Today I offer three of my solutions.

When people start to work from home more often and distance becomes less relevant, we should rethink the way our cities (and countries) are planned. Here’re three things we could do in the Netherlands.

1. Create Strategic Office Locations

These Strategic Office Locations replace the current offices in cities downtown. Since less office space is needed, only a few locations are needed. All of these office locations are located at major highway intersections outside of our current cities. Plenty of parking space and extensive public transport is available. Thus eliminating the problems we associate with cities (too much traffic, no parking space, new infrastructure cramped in old cities and always a lack of space).

2. Focus on unique housing

Home equals workspace. This results in people wanting to get out of their houses and avoid getting stressed. That is why people want to be somewhere they love to live. How many people really want to live in a generic apartment in just another suburb of a major city? I guess not that many. Since the Strategic Office Locations are centrally located and only need to be visited several times a month, people can live in the entire country.

Nature loving people might choose the Frisian lakes or Limburg hills. Other people could be more interested in locations like the historic district in Amsterdam where many shops, cinemas bars, restaurants and theaters are.

This development offers major possibilities for remote areas. Suddenly, they’re not that remote anymore…

3. ‘Super Giant XXL Megastores’

Companies continue to scale up. Companies like Media Markt, IKEA but also supermarkets like AH XL (large Dutch supermarket) and distribution centers only need a few strategic locations in order to serve the entire country. These companies will be situated at Strategic Office Locations.

Imagine how cities and entire countries will change. Is it just a dream? Or could this be our future?

Read part one here.