Leiden Town Hall renovated with layered history as a reference point

The town hall in Leiden has been renovated and made more sustainable according to a design by Office Winhov and Studio Linse. The building has been adapted to the organization’s new working method, whereby the design combination has returned the historic monument to its original charm. H+N+S Landscape Architects created a new garden design for the farm.

Leiden has had its town hall on the Breestraat since the fourteenth century, but the building has not remained the same over the centuries. The building was hit by fires several times and finally in 1929 a fire reduced the entire complex to ashes. The Renaissance facade from around 1595, based on drawings by master builder Lieven de Key, was restored; behind the facade a completely new building appeared.

Modern building
After winning the competition, architect CJ Blaauw designed a coherent and modern building with a concrete shell behind the facade. His 1935 design was based on a traditional two-court structure, but he literally opened the outer court to the city. In addition, Blaauw made each wing an independent building, reducing the whole to the proportions of the historic center.

The exterior of the concrete shell was given a traditional brick facade, so that the new construction entered into a relationship with both the existing facade and the environment, where brick also dominated. The interior was richly decorated with marble floors and panels, stucco ceilings, parquet floors, walls with wooden inlays, etc.

Blaauw created a hierarchy in the town hall space using materials and finishes. After Blaauw’s death in 1947, his successor HT Zwiers completed the interior. He chose a more reserved approach with a different palette of materials but used a lot of decoration. An example of this is MC Escher’s entry in the wooden cladding, say Office Winhov and Studio Linse.

Large-scale renewal
After several years of intensive use and various minor adjustments, there is a need for a renovation, which the town hall closed its doors to in 2020. In the design for the renovation, Office Winhov and Studio Linse have taken the building’s layered history and, in particular, Blaauw’s design as a reference point. In the spirit of Blaauw, the design team wanted to make the town hall a place where Leiden residents like to come.

In addition, the building had to be made more sustainable, all installations had to be renewed and the municipal organization had to be able to function in a contemporary way. In addition to the major renovation, the functional determination of all rooms has also been completely reviewed, Office Winhov and Studio Linse explain.

build upon
Later additions have been removed from the existing rooms; in new rooms, the design team has chosen a material palette that matches Blaauw’s choice. For example, new terrazzo floors have been created as a continuation of the existing marble floors, with lines in brass that follow the original patterns in the marble.

According to Blaauw’s logic, the hierarchy of spaces has been restored. For example, the more formal rooms have new wooden floors following the 1930s idea. The new design also seeks a connection with the history with, for example, the wallpaper that corresponds to the original cladding, and with stucco, where the proportions of the original natural stone cladding have been continued.

Workplaces and public spaces
The civil servants have been given flexible workplaces in the attics, where the concrete shell is made visible. By improving the acoustics and indoor climate, spaces such as the Trouwzaal and the Burgerzaal, in addition to bringing back the old charm, can once again play a representative and hospitable role for the public.

In addition, a new committee room, a meeting center and a city foyer with a new public reception have been realized. The farm’s glass roof from the 1990s, which became redundant after the public counters were moved to the municipal office, has been removed. This courtyard gives way to a new garden, designed by H+N+S Landscape Architects.

At the heart of the garden is a flowering tulip tree – a small reference to the tree that Leiden resident Herman Boerhaave once planted in the Hortus botanicus. In this way, the farm together with the town hall square forms the connection with the historic center and the history of Leiden.

Leave a Comment