Innovative hotel repurposes and renovates 28 historic, abandoned bridgekeeper houses spread all across Amsterdam

For centuries, the bridge houses of Amsterdam, Netherlands accommodated the city’s bridge keepers, who are responsible for opening the bridges for passing water traffic. With building dates between 1673 and 2009, the bridge houses carry an extensive history.

Their various architectural styles show how the city developed and grew when new quarters were built and how people thought about city development at that time. Many bridges and bridge houses are designed by renowned Dutch architects, such as Hendrik Petrus Berlage and Pieter Lodewijk Kramer.

Due to the centralization of bridge control, the bridge houses lost their original purpose of working space for Amsterdam’s bridge keepers.

SWEETS hotel is a new, decentralized hotel that is dotted across Amsterdam in 28 repurposed and renovated bridge houses, built along and on Amsterdam’s canals between 1673 and 2009, each one designed in the architectural style of its building period.

SWEETS hotel reuses this industrial heritage by transforming the bridge houses into stand-alone hotel suites with unique interiors, designed with the architectural history of the tiny building in mind.

SWEETS hotel officially opened the first 11 bridge houses on March 15th, 2018. 10 have been added since then and the remaining 7 will be completed before the end of 2021.

This past February, SWEETS hotel was awarded “Hotel of the Year 2020” at the annual Frame Awards. Earlier, SWEETS hotel won the Dezeen Award 2019 in the category ‘Hotel and Short-stay Interior’ and the Entree Award 2018 for “Best Hotel Concept“.

Reusing industrial heritage

In 2012, the municipality of Amsterdam decided to centralize bridge control, which made the bridge houses – often registered monuments – lose their original purpose. SWEETS hotel gives new life to this industrial heritage.

Although the tiny houses – some with a floor size as small as 10,5m² – were not designed for people to sleep and shower in, the 2-person hotel suites are now all equipped with a shower, toilet and pantry. Two bridge houses are furnished with a kitchen.

Because of their former function and particular locations, all 28 bridge houses have a panoramic and far-reaching view across the canals of Amsterdam.

Design Picnics

With respect for the original architects, the interior design team of SWEETS hotel researches and reacts to the architectural history of each individual bridge house. During so-called “design picnics” on location, together with all the involved partners, the team chooses which elements to preserve and which to play with.

For example, some historical remnants were found during the renovation process of bridge house “Amstelschutsluis” (built in 1673). SWEETS hotel’s design team kept these remnants intact as much as possible. Moreover, the team researched the 17th-century Dutch traditions and the use of materials and colors, of which the results were balanced out with contemporary elements.

For the interior of bridge house “Hortusbrug”, a tiny architectural icon in the style of ‘De Stijl’, the design team took their inspiration from famous Dutch architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld, playing with typical Rietveld-elements while respecting his legacy.

Exploring different neighborhoods

The city of Amsterdam is SWEETS hotel’s lobby: with the self-composed Neighbourhood Guide on the electronic tablet in every bridge house, SWEETS hotel encourages guests to explore the neighbourhood and discover different sides of Amsterdam, mostly outside the crowded city centre.

With the guide, SWEETS hotel stimulates local businesses in many different areas of the city.

SWEETS hotel is an initiative and co-creation of architecture office Space&Matter (known for De Ceuvel and Schoonschip, both in Amsterdam), project development partner Grayfield and Seven New Things (Suzanne Oxenaar, Otto Nan and Gerrit Groen, founders of Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy (Amsterdam; 2004 – sold in 2018), Llove Hotel (pop-up hotel in Tokyo; 2010) and Hotel The Exchange (Amsterdam; 2011)).

All photos courtesy of SWEETS Hotel.

See SWEETS Hotel website.

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