Army Base to a Public Place
A former marine base in Amsterdam, Netherlands was converted by local architectural studio bureau SLA into offices to mark the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The marine base, located in the heart of the Dutch city, started a gradual transition early last year from a dominantly military-only zone to a more public program. The building, ’27E’ was selected as the first to be repurposed solely for civilian use. It is situated on the waterfront, next to the Maritime Museum and the Nemo Science Centre (a design of Renzo Piano).
Since 1962, the 2500sqm building served as a technical education facility for soldiers. It was part of an ensemble of two identical elevated volumes, connected by a single storey base.
True to the “Five Points of a New Architecture” of Le Corbusier, the two buildings were elevated above ground. In those days, the columns on which the building rests, the ‘pilotis,’ were pleasing elements for sculptural expression. All the concrete has been poured in situ: the grain of the shuttering planks is still nicely detailed in the visible concrete. Access is provided from under the base in a subtle embedded entrance area.
“The Marine base in Amsterdam has been a military restricted area for ages – in the middle of the city. Since January 2015 the compound is slowly opening up for a more public program. Bureau Marineterrein Amsterdam (Amsterdam Marine Base Bureau) asked us in June 2014 to perform a feasibility study for one the former educational buildings on the terrain. In fall 2014 bureau SLA took care of the total engineering of the project.” bureau SLA
Bureau SLA was commissioned to overhaul the building to host programmes associated with the presidency meetings of the EU Council, which were being hosted in the Netherlands during the first half of 2016.
The architects started with dismantling and stripping down of the boxy structure to a bare concrete skeleton and re-cladding it in panels of moulded fibreglass-reinforced concrete.The makeover included a re-organization of layout, introduction of various services and infrastructure and a new façade.
Consequently, the three storey building with 500sqm of net floor space on each floor has now become an office space. A glazed lobby is tucked among the pilotis in the underbelly of the block, which the architects describe as a “colossus”.Inside, a grid of poured in-situ concrete columns and breams define each of the three levels, which are framed by a pair of brick walls. A flight of concrete steps serving as an emergency exit is tacked onto one of these walls facing the water.
The building’s first tenant is Makerversity, a London-based group that provides work spaces and tools for creative businesses.
The Unique Façade
The facades consist of large 3.5m x 3.5m triple glazed windows set into deep window bays. The structural grid is clad in dark, pre-moulded fiberglass reinforced concrete panels. The main windows are fronted with solid timber screens of Accoya wood, an acetylated wood with excellent sustainable properties.
“The pattern of the blinds may look random at first sight, but is in fact an interpretation of all the national flags of the countries of the European Community,” said the architects.
Operable windows are designed as triangular “dog-ears” as not to (optically) subdivide the glass panes. These flaps are made from glass etched with a pattern derived from a drawing by the late Dutch Minimalist artist Jan Schoon hoven. The same motif is also used to decorate a pair of vertical windows positioned in front of stairwells at either end of the building.
Facts & figures
Client: Central Government Real Estate Agency
Architectural Firm: bureau SLA
Design team: Peter van Assche, JotiWeijers-Coghlan, Alejandro Hernandez, Christine van Gemert, JordiHerfst, Susanne Leon (model)
Design & Completion: 2014 – 2016