A team of five New York architecture firms has won one of two top prizes in a Dutch design competition for a complex referred to rather fancifully as a socially catalytic "fort" for a redeveloping docklands zone called Amsterdam North.

The Open Fort 400 Competition, sponsored by the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) and Housing Corporation Ymere, began in June and called for architects and urban designers to develop schemes for a building to commemorate the 400th anniversary of New York City's founding by the Dutch. Designers were tasked with expanding on the idea of the original Fort Amsterdam, which protected the city but also "offered spatial freedom for the settlement to grow," said the competition brief. In the targeted part of Amsterdam, "there is again a need for a fort that facilitates the development of a society."

The New York team, called New York 5, was organized by the Rotterdam firm Stereo Architects and included HWKN, L.E.FT, PARA-project, the Phu Hoang Office (with Rachely Rotem Studio), and WORKac. The team's proposal consisted of a large glass office cube measuring 80,000 square feet, designed by Stereo Architects, that holds five interior "towers," each by one of the five teams and each a play on some aspect of New York's urban forms: L.E.FT's contribution joined buildings by their fire stairs and elevators; the Phu Hoang Office wrapped an open building in rope to mimic the ubiquitous construction netting seen throughout New York City.

The jury, consisting of several designers and planners, thought the New York 5 scheme "offers a refreshing outlook on cultural and social issues" yet found its fortlike qualities unconvincing.

The other winning team was a European group working as a collaborative called Open Frame: It comprised Elastik and Mat Studio, Igor Kebel and Eriko Watanabe, and Mika Cimolini and Freek Deck. The scheme was a sprawling, terraced structure of pirouetting, angled floors, with some planes colored a bright, saturated red, combining indoor and outdoor performance, gallery, and public gathering spaces. The jury liked its "solid spatial effects" but doubted the basis for its cultural programming.

The winning schemes go on exhibit from Dec. 19 to Feb. 27 at Amsterdam's Zuiderkerk. For more information, go to www.openfort400.nl.