Project developer ION and real-estate investor and developer Green Real Estate have won the tender to sustainably transform and expand the former Calvijn College in Amsterdam Nieuw-West. The Belgian-Dutch alliance submitted the most promising plan for the transformation of the old school and an energy-neutral new building with a total of 189 homes, a health centre, a neighbourhood centre and a so-called cultural breeding ground where artists can live and work. By using sustainable innovations such as underground cooling and cultivation of a climate forest, the prestigious project is more sustainable than required.

Like many European cities, Amsterdam is facing the formidable challenge of increasing its housing supply while developing as sustainably as possible. The total project comprises 189 flats (about 14,300 m2) of which a quarter are mid-range rentals and three quarters are private sector, a health centre of approximately 1,000 m2, a work studio of approximately 500 m2, a community lounge of approximately 120 m2 and a 3,500 m2 cultural breeding ground including several shared living units for artists. Green and ION, for whom this is the first project in the Netherlands, are developing the project together.

The Podium area, near the Amsterdam Lelylaan station and close to the Vondel and Rembrandt parks, forms part of the Ringzone West and is one of Amsterdam's densification locations, where many new homes and facilities are being built. The municipality's ambition is to transform this traditionally spacious business and facilities zone into a centre-urban environment that bridges the gap between the old and the new city.

The project on the Cornelis Lelylaan is one of the last pieces of the puzzle in a lively Amsterdam neighbourhood with many social challenges. Meeting and connecting are central to the design, with Het Cornelium as the cultural heart and the connecting factor.


"Green invests in environments where people feel comfortable and at home, where entrepreneurs can flourish and where a home offers more than just housing. We develop areas where people engage in social interactions and where they feel they count in society. That is why we have chosen an open character in the design, where people feel welcome and can interact. The plan for a green oasis with a nature-inclusive urban forest between the two buildings is an invitation to residents and neighbours to come together, relax and exercise."

Richard Dallinga, CEO Green Real Estate

"We view this redevelopment as an opportunity for people and the neighbourhood. The proximity of Lelylaan Station, Vondel Park, Rembrandt Park and the A10 motorway are of great value, but the neighbourhood itself lacks a central hub. Often, a supermarket or shopping centre is expected to perform that function, but in this case, we see other opportunities. The Cornelium will become a creative beating heart of the neighbourhood, with a lively artist community, small-scale cafes, a secret green oasis and a range of neighbourhood activities.”

Davy Demuynck, CEO & co-founder ION

Forest air to breathe and cool

By using sustainable district heat, natural cooling and high-efficiency solar panels, the current plan aims to generate 21% more energy annually than the new apartment building will need. To achieve this high score, solar panels will not only be placed on the roofs, but will also be hidden in the canopies of the existing monument. Thanks to this artifice, the restored block, where there are fewer possibilities, will also be supplied with green energy.

"In the concept presented, we choose to bring nature back to the city. We will achieve this not only with wetlands, green balconies, green roofs and even a food roof where residents can grow their own vegetables, but also with a climate forest that will be placed between the new building and the old school building. Sections of this land could be developed, but we consciously decided not to do that and to plant trees on the site. In addition, the clean forest air is brought into the flats through underground pipes. These pipes are about 2 metres deep, where the temperature is around 11 degrees Celsius all year round. In this way, a lot of energy is saved for cooling down the building in the summer and heating it up in the winter." Davy Demuynck, CEO & co-founder ION

Sustainable through technology

When building sustainably, people often look to wood, but for the construction of Het Cornelium, ION and Green Real Estate have suggested going a step further by choosing circular concrete. They are counting on the company New Horizon, which has brought an innovative form of ready-mix concrete to the market.


"New Horizon can 'harvest' the original pure components (sand, gravel and cement) from demolished concrete and turn it into new, so-called circular concrete. 25,000 m2 of solar panels provide them with energy, so they also do this in a CO2-neutral way. Through the cooperation with New Horizon we are also able to reuse our scrap wood for the 'floating' paths in the climate forest." Davy Demuynck, CEO & co-founder ION

The Belgian-Dutch team tops off the sustainable narrative with the provision of box-in-box constructions in the restored building. The plan is to slide and secure new spaces in the existing spaces of the school building, which can then be moved to another building if ever needed. This technique also makes it possible to leave the old façade undisturbed and to heat, cool and sound-proof the rooms more efficiently.


Food roof

The architecture of the new, light green building is inspired by austere modernism and has a few characteristic eye-catchers. For example, there is a 'gateway' in the middle of the building. In the current design, this not only provides a pleasant view from the street to the monument and the climate forest, but is also intended as a residential passageway with terraces, plants and windows. On the roof of the transformed school there is the option of a food roof with a communal patio.

First time in the Netherlands

It is the first time that the Belgian project developer ION is working in the Netherlands and it hopes to realise more projects there in the future. For ION, the Cornelium is a true showpiece, which will further strengthen the developer's reputation abroad. The developer is also going to work in Luxembourg and in the Benelux many are looking forward to the redevelopment of the famous Antwerp Boerentoren, which is also headed by ION.


"In Belgium we have grown into one of the largest developers in 11 years, but it was the first time we competed for a tender in the Netherlands. The fact that we have now won it in the capital, the most challenging market in the country and many times more demanding than the Belgian market, is enormously satisfying and shows that we are and will remain a pioneer in the field of cultural history and sustainability. We do not shy away from complex stories, on the contrary. By looking over the border, we also learn new techniques that we can also apply in our Belgian projects."

Davy Demuynck, CEO & co-founder ION

Construction is scheduled to start in the first half of 2025 and it should be completed in 2027. The design was partly developed in close cooperation with OZ Architects, sustainability consultant Arup, Jaap Schoufour from Stipo, the municipality of Amsterdam and responsible for creating creative incubators, and special professor of Monuments and Urban Planning at the University of Amsterdam Vincent van Rossum.