Holland may have abandoned its famously lucrative (and destructive) colonial trade hundreds of years ago, but the country is still a major exporter of one thing: bike culture. The country even has its own Dutch Cycling Embassy, which helps cities all over the world plan safer bike infrastructure. Sales of their famously durable commuting bikes have skyrocketed, and even the their legal system is bike-oriented: Dutch laws on driver responsibility are being used as a model by policy-makers here in the US. Basically, for cyclists, Holland is the Marcia to every other country’s Jan.
Amsterdam design firm NL Architects is perpetuating the trend with Bicycle Club, a cafe/velodrome mashup in southern China. The architects were invited by a housing developer to design a bike rental pavilion for a huge resort in Hainan province last year. After researching vernacular building types, they proposed a pagoda-style roof perched atop a simple glass box. The curving overhang, designed to accommodate Hainan’s tropical climate, struck them as an opportunity for experimentation. “Could the oversized top house another function?,” they wondered (cue lightbulb),“what about a velodrome?”
The result is what the architects call “a mashup” of building types. The velodrome is supported by a structural system anchored below the central staircase that provides access to the track above. A curtain wall of glass hangs down from the cantilevered edges of the velodrome itself, which shade the cafe and bike rental operation inside. It’s an unlikely combination, explain the architects, but velodromes, which are traditionally used for professional track racing, are also “surprisingly functional pagodas.”
Of course, there won’t be any racing going on atop Bicycle Club when it’s complete later this year (it’s actually a vastly scaled-down version of a typical velodrome, anyways), but it’s a great little one-liner of a concept. And it’s actually not without precedent. Back in 2003, NL Architects designed Basket Bar, a popular Utrecht restaurant whose transparent ceiling is a functioning basketball court.