Felix Meritis (‘happy through merit’) is an Amsterdam icon on ‘the enlightenment’. The building was built in 1788 as a meeting spot for music, drawing, physics, commerce and literature: a house for the exchange of ideas, business and ideals. After decades of decay Civic, together with Aimforthemoon and entrepreneur Paul van Katwijk, developed a proposal to reinstate Felix Meritis as a public living room for independent thinkers.
The first aspect of the threefold spatial strategy is the idea of building upon the shoulders of history. Not only in its reinterpretation of the historical design and detailing, but also in this contemporary reinterpretation of the historical concept. The building is restructured through ‘rooms’, each with their own atmosphere and technical qualities fitting its modern usage: digital media, library, business club, debate-hall, co-working spaces and ateliers.
Secondly, we recover the public character of Felix Meritis: the building acquires a public living room, a terrace and a new interior route that connects both sides of the building. In a time where the rising popularity of Amsterdam is paired with a sharp decrease in public space, Felix Meritis offers one of the last truly public interiors of the city.
Thirdly, the renovation concept is modest, fitting the quality of the monument. Insensible additions of recent decades are removed. The financial means are focussed on an improvement of the technical characteristics of every room (ventilation, isolation, sound). Through a deep study of the historical details it translates into a long-term, step-by-step renovation strategy.
Felix Meritis is a symbol of the power of transformation, by translating the history of the enlightenment, a contemporary urban typology arises; a house for collective intelligence.
- Name: Felix Meritis
- Location: Amsterdam (NL)
- Program: Auditorium, business club, library, media studios, offices, restaurant, roof terrace, public living room
- Size: 3.500 m²
- Commission: SO, concept development and renovation plan
- Period: 2014
- Client: EXCL Ventures Amsterdam
- Team: Jan Lebbink, Gert Kwekkeboom, Rick ten Doeschate, Ingrid van der Heijden, Leen Bogerd
- Partners: AimfortheMoon, Braaksma & Roos Architecten
- Images: Civic Architects, IMG+