Post-war factory converted into city office The Hague

A post-war factory building on Fruitweg in The Hague has been converted into a new city office for two municipal services. Wessel van Geffen architects and Studio Leon Thier architecture/interior have created a welcoming and pleasant environment respecting the original building and using the existing open structure.

The Department of Social Affairs and Employment Projects and the Department of Education, Culture and Welfare of The Hague Municipality opened their new premises in May 2022. It is a building from 1955, which is known to many as Van Rijmenam’s former bindery and printing house.

Where previously there were work tables, machines and presses, the more than 500 employees in both services can now have different types of workplaces spread over the converted building.

Hospitable and open
As the client, the municipality had a clear vision of the desired atmosphere for the municipal office, say the architects. The new home should offer a hospitable and warm welcome to visitors rather than a businesslike reception.

Wessel van Geffen architects and Studio Leon Thier have made full use of the building’s existing open structure for the new layout of the municipal office. Keeping the structure very open allows the building to connect people, the architects explain.

All living and working areas offer a view of the entire structure of the building, so that the individual continues to feel part of the whole. For this purpose, for example, the sparingly added fixed walls are kept visually separated from the facade and ceiling by a glass strip. New stairs and various meeting areas increase contact opportunities in the building.

Entrance and restaurant
The entrance area is central to the contact between visitors and employees. The entrance hall’s open and loose spatial arrangement with counters and coffee bar makes the visitor feel welcome. A spacious staircase – an adaptation of the original building – leads to the training rooms in the basement. Here, the windows have been enlarged so that more daylight comes in.

The (company) restaurant with a so-called learning kitchen is on the first floor. Job seekers run the restaurant and can thus gain work experience for a job in the restaurant industry. The restaurant is accessible to both employees and visitors.

To increase the accessibility of the floors, a glass elevator has been integrated into the original main staircase, at the main entrance. The glass not only contributes to the feeling of social security, but also preserves the open character of the historic travertine staircase.

Varied workplaces
The workspaces on the floors have a clear layout with a work area along the facades and a flexibly divided central zone. For example, the central zone contains flexible workplaces, as well as a pantry and various meeting rooms for smaller groups. Glass soundproof rooms form call cells where employees can make calls without disturbing colleagues.

During the design of the transformation, the designers have had many conversations with the future users to clarify wishes and usage requirements for the workplace of the future. The result is a varied working atmosphere throughout the building with meeting places and green elements that enhance the homely atmosphere, say the architects.

A new staircase has been added in the center of the building, as an addition to the existing staircases at the heads, to increase internal accessibility. The stairs make colleagues on other floors quickly accessible and at the same time encourage them not to take the lift, but to move healthily.

Historic properties
After a preliminary study by LIAG architects, Wessel van Geffen architects and Studio Leon Thier chose to retain the facade, but fully adapt the interior to the new function. They approached the building as if it were a monument and designed the transformation with great respect for the existing, the architects explain.

During the interventions, the old building was deepened in order to keep the historical qualities intact as far as possible, but to meet new requirements. Every part of the shell has been improved. If necessary, new materials and finishes with far better technical properties have been applied, say the architects.

Concrete and brick
For example, a large part of the concrete frames have been replaced by aluminum frames of the same shape, which have good insulation properties. The concrete breastplates, on which a Van Rijmenam logo was affixed, were also replaced by insulated lightweight concrete slabs with the logo of The Hague Municipality.

The concrete facade piers, behind which in some places rainwater drainage runs, have been recreated. Where concrete is maintained, it is finished with paint mixed with sand so that the texture continues to give the impression of concrete. For this purpose, for example, the frame and the striking round windows – characteristic of the post-war period – were chosen.

The rear facade has not been restored either, but has been reconstructed respectfully. On the back side, which had a less representative design than the street facade, the brick facade was torn down and walled up a few centimeters forward in largely the same stone. In this way, a much better insulation effect could be achieved.

In addition to the climate screen, the installations have also been improved. The renovated building uses heat and cold storage, a radiant ceiling provides additional heating or cooling and the supply of fresh air is integrated into the ceiling islands. As a result of these interventions, the renovated building is now a nearly energy neutral building (NZEB).

Designers and client were also aware of nature during the project. Nest boxes are integrated into the design for birds and varied planting at the back, with climbing plants, provides space for a rich insect life.

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