Jonas by Orange Architects aims to become the living room of IJburg in Amsterdam

Despite its immensity in volume, Jonas stands subtly, its nautical silhouette standing tall against the boats docked in the harbour. Its facade stays gently afloat from its site, giving it a fleeting character in the likelihood of a vessel. Its skin is composed of pre-patinated zinc and European Douglas wood. Had it been designed with straight lines, it would have been eerily imposing against its setting. Rather, its gently changing shape and homogeneous windows are reminiscent of the movement of the ocean waves and their usual benevolent softness. These features make it stand out adequately without making it alien to its context. The curiosity-inducing nature of Jonas is a testament to its design and program, which calls you in to interact with it. Its appearance is a cue to the site’s themes—the water, the quayside, and the craft of shipbuilding.

The building, designed by the Dutch firm Orange Architects, is an innovative sustainable housing complex located at the harbour of IJburg in Amsterdam. It features a mixed-use programme that aims to increase social cohesion in the neighbourhood. The newly created IJburg is located on the eastern edges of the Danish capital, spread across man-made islands in the IJ river. In response to the growing need for housing and the lack of available space near the city centre of Amsterdam, the neighbourhood was developed over the last two decades. Jonas completes the final piece of the development puzzle around the port of IJburg, located at the centre of the island.


The gently undulating form of the structure makes it more inviting and less imposing | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
The gently undulating form of the structure makes it more inviting and less imposing Image: Sebastian van Damme

“Jonas is a case study for a new development in The Netherlands: sustainable and collective living in high urban density. The building is designed to strengthen social cohesion by creating an inviting heart, not only for its residents but for the entire neighbourhood of Amsterdam IJburg,” Orange Architects tell STIR. Jonas accommodates 190 medium-priced rental homes, 83 owner-occupied homes, and a range of supporting facilities. Seventy per cent of the 273 housing units fit in the affordable rent category, making living in Jonas accessible for a wide range of people. It also includes public spaces and social facilities which invite the community inside. Jonas is also one of the first residential buildings in the Netherlands to receive the highest possible ratings from BREEAM, awarded for its sustainable framework.


  • The artwork by Gustaf Tenggren for a concept of Pinocchio was the concept image for Jonas | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
    The artwork by Gustaf Tenggren for the concept of Pinocchio was the concept image for Jonas Image: Courtesy of Orange Architects


  • Living Room - the entrance lobby of Jonas | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
    Living Room – the entrance lobby of Jonas Image: Sebastian van Damme

The building is named after the adventurous story of Jonas and the Whale where the prophet Jonah (or Jonas in Dutch) is saved by a whale from drowning and he stays inside its belly for three days before being tossed out on land. While the building is named Jonas, it has the form of a whale—signifying the sense of safety and comfort that the architecture provides, but also the adventure associated with the story. The architects call it “an imposing building with a warm heart, and a housing concept that focuses on connections.” The program has been structured around community spaces, wherein the landscape is not just limited to the surroundings of the building but also finds its place inside it. “The spatial concept of Jonas is based on the construction of traditional wooden ships. A skeleton consisting of a series of trusses arranged in a row forms the main structure. This allows large hollows, such as the canyon or the forest patio, to be carved out of the volume, and the required housing programme is contained within the skin of the building,” say Jeroen Schipper and Patrick Meijers, partners at Orange Architects.


  • The longitudinal section of Jonas | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
    The longitudinal section of Jonas Image: Courtesy of Orange Architects


  • Concept sketch of Jonas | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
    Concept sketch of Jonas Image: Courtesy of Orange Architects

The plinth accommodates the commercial facilities of the Jonas. The community spaces extend deep into the building and they are connected through a communal route that links the public and collective programs, including the living room, the mountain path, the forest patio, and the rooftop beach and bar. The communal route is designed like a canyon, with a fully glazed ceiling evoking a feeling of awe commanded by the grandeur of nature. The tall space extends to the full height of the building and is finished in undulating timber slats that evoke associations with a canyon. The communal spaces run through the core of the building, and the timber screen adds a layer of privacy to the apartments wrapped around them.


  • The Forest is an intimate space with native natural elements like large trees, ferns and moss | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
    The Forest is an intimate space with native natural elements like large trees, ferns, and moss Image: Sebastian van Damme


  • The timber elements used for the interior parts of the building make it reminiscent of the art of ship-building | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
    The timber elements used for the interior parts of the building make it reminiscent of the art of ship-building Image: Sebastian van Damme


  • Exploded axonometric drawing showing the various programs of the Jonas | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
    Exploded axonometric drawing showing the various programs of the Jonas Image: Courtesy of Orange Architects

Jonas strives to be the living room of IJburg. The first communal place is ‘The Rock’—a three-dimensional landscape at the entrance of the building. The garage for Jonas is housed in the basement, and its entrance is integrated with the pavilion, which transforms what is usually reserved for vehicular traffic to serve as a public space. ‘The Forest’—a patio inside the building with large trees, ferns and moss creates an inviting natural space, replete with wooden benches and paths made of flagstones. The structure gently rises along the corner and the plinth steps down, paving the way to create a portal that leads to the water directly from the inside of the building. ‘The Beach’ is another communal space designed on the rooftop of Jonas. With a central water pond, dancing pines, boardwalk terraces, and a central square with Portuguese cobblestones, the space establishes a leisurely mood. The base of the central water pond is glazed, allowing for a sense of movement in the natural light that filters into the communal route, which is located exactly below the water body. To tell the story that inspired the name of the building, the story of Jonas and the whale is told through patterns designed on the stone.


The cross sections of Jonas | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
The cross sections of Jonas Image: Courtesy of Orange Architects

Jonas received not only the BREEAM Outstanding Design certification but also the BREEAM Outstanding Post-Construction certificate. It does not limit itself to the highest technical standards for sustainability but puts forth a holistic approach that is empathetic towards the social role of the project and the surrounding ecology. Stated to be a net-zero building, it packs in features such as a large number of solar panels, and a low-temperature heating system that connects to the public heating grid. Another feature is the cold storage source which uses thermal energy from surface water. These features allow the homes to be heated or cooled as required. In addition to the future-proof energy supply, the design employs recyclable materials for construction, while using more than 25 per cent recycled construction waste for its granulate. During the process, the shadow price and carbon footprint for the construction materials were constantly monitored and optimised. Rainwater is collected in the basement to be used for flushing toilets in the public spaces and the commercial units on the ground floor.


The Beach Roof | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
The Beach Roof Image: Sebastian van Damme

Along with all its sustainability and community features, the landscape design extends deep inside the building. It is aimed at being nature-inclusive and a means of strengthening the ecological values of the area. Curated of the native riverside vegetation, mussel reefs have also been created in the water as a natural way of improving the water quality and increasing biodiversity. A wall is to be built for sand martins—a native bird species that is slowly losing its habitat due to increased construction volume.


The wooden members that create the canyon-like effect also create a sense of privacy for passages running through the apartments | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
The wooden members that create the canyon-like effect also create a sense of privacy for passages running through the apartments Image: Sebastian van Damme

The project exhibits a typology of residential architecture that has become a rare sighting in recent times, one that protagonises social interaction. It is an indication that demands profound reflection, with a heightened requirement for privacy amongst the masses and the resulting social disconnect. As the world’s population becomes increasingly urban, high-density living conditions seem inevitable. Access to public and green spaces becomes an indulgence only the economically privileged can afford—since properties around these amenities tend to be expensive. As the economic disparity between social classes becomes more and more pronounced, it poses a difficult question: How can public spaces be made more accessible to the less privileged while preserving housing affordability?


  • Ground floor plan | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
    Ground floor plan Image: Courtesy of Orange Architects


  • Third floor plan | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
    Third floor plan Image: Courtesy of Orange Architects


  • Sixth floor plan | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
    Sixth floor plan Image: Courtesy of Orange Architects


  • Jonas apartment layouts | Jonas | Orange Architects | STIRworld
    Jonas apartment layoutsImage: Courtesy of Orange Architects

Project Details

Name: Jonas
Location: IJburg, Amsterdam
Area: 29950 sqm
Year of completion: 2022
Architect: Patrick Meijers, Jeroen Schipper, Paul Kierkels, Elena Staskute, Florentine van der Vaart, Irina Vaganova, Athanasia Kalaitzidou, Gloria Caiti, Luís Cardoso, Kapilan Chandranesan, Eric Eisma, Filippo Garuglieri, Casper van Leeuwen, Francesco Mainetti, Manuel Magnaguagno, Angela Park, Niek van der Putten, Erika Ruiz, Ivan Shkurko – Orange Architects
Advisors: ABT, Felixx Landscape Architects, Bureau Stadsnatuur, Pubblik&Vos, Site Urban Development, JMJ Bouwmanagement, Floor Ziegler, SmitsRinsma

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