John Bezold

‘The IJhal in Amsterdam’, Domus Magazine, No. 1007


The IJhal is the newly finished extension, complete with pedestrian passages and bicycle paths, of Amsterdam’s central train station on the northern side along the IJ River, after which the wing is named. The central station has been under continuous construction during the last decade or so, as the city undertook a total transformation of the original 19th-century building. The station has been expanded underground, aboveground, and at the rear in order to accommodate the city’s growing population and increasing number of tourists. A major portion of the station’s renovation and expansion is related to the upcoming North-South metro line, which will service that axis of the city. For the first time, one of the city’s metro lines will cross under the IJ River that flows behind the city’s train station. This spot sees a confluence of taxis, metro lines, trams, trains, and infinite cyclists, in addition to being a loading point for the IJ’s ferryboat traffic. It is a major node of pedestrian and public transportation in Amsterdam.

Enormous LED screens offer a continual mix of immersive, calming scenes of the city and advertising. The floor is paved with gold, yellow and tan terrazzo. This multifaceted interior passage is meant to encourage constant pedestrian movement and simultaneously remain durable under the daily foot traffic of tens of thousands of travelers. A system of modular, rounded mirrored elements adorns the IJhal’s ceiling, arranged in a playful grid that introduces a sense of movement to the ever-shifting reflections from below. These elements communicate with mirrors wrapped around the load-bearing columns that dot the IJhal’s main axis. All of these mirrored elements cast the radiating, undulating fluctuations of the IJ’s surface reflections into the IJhal, where they refract into the adjacent passageways in a nod to Amsterdam’s historically profound relationship with water.

Shops line the IJhal’s southern edge, while the northern edge hosts a series of restaurants. The latter’s position on the waterside offers views of the IJ while dining, and the observation of a constant stream of cyclists passing by on the new “bike highway” that runs parallel to the IJ. Staircases inside rectangular voids connect the IJhal to the regional bus terminal above. Waves of winter-hardy ivy spill over into the voids from above, introducing a gentle natural element to this highly chiseled and extremely durable area. Escalators below every bus staircase will eventually lead to the train station’s metro stop and platforms for the North-South line that runs under the station perpendicular to the IJ. This metro will allow visitors and residents to use the subway instead of the tram system when venturing south from the station into the city.

In addition to its use on the floor, terrazzo was also chosen for the custom way-finding signage holders and the many photo-booths that line the IJhal’s main pedestrian axis, resulting in a cohesive visual language. By the same token, the signage of each shop and restaurant has been integrated into the walls of glass that front all such interior spaces in the IJhal. Each is lit from behind, bringing further unity to this otherwise frantically busy location within the station. A series of secondary passageways perpendicular to the IJhal offers direct views of the waterfront throughout the entire station. Notions of transparency and reflection in the IJhal seek to re-establish Amsterdam’s connection to its northern neighborhoods, which were severed from the city center when the train station was built in 1889.