KAAN Architecten injects new life into a historic building in The Hague

KAAN Architecten injects new life into a historic building in The Hague

KAAN Architecten holds the contemporary working values of transparency and flexibility at the heart of its redesign of The Hague’s Grade I-listed Bezuidenhoutseweg 30 (B30), which has been transformed from a historic monument into a highly functioning working space for five distinct offices.

Originally built in 1917, and designed by then-chief government architect Daniel EC Knuttel, the stiff neoclassical architecture of the B30 ministry building reflected the austerity of its time and the strict hierarchies of the government office. Later in 1994 it was then renovated, and partly demolished, by architect Hans Ruijssenaars.

Large aluminium framed windows pivot out opening the ground floor up to the gardens and urban centre of The Hague

Playing a role in preserving the history of the B30, KAAN worked with many original features of the building, while renewing and updating much of the design into an intuitive and less hierarchical design. ‘We restored a huge part of the original building and added a fourth floor that reaches the original height of the building. The main part of the new design was to rearrange the 20th century office spaces and add new offices following the same grid,’ says Dikkie Scipio, lead partner on the project. ‘Additionally the users requested small meeting rooms and special rooms for concentration that are now stacked in multiple levels in three different areas of the building,’ she says.

It was on the ground floor where the conceptual ideals of the redesign unfolded. Here, the new architecture reflects the working practices of collaboration, interaction and debate expressed by the offices and client (the Central Government Real Estate Agency). Diverse spaces for employees and the public have been carved out including a restaurant, library, meeting and seminar rooms, a sunken auditorium and a café which opens up into the gardens with pivoting high-gloss aluminum framed doors. A light-filled public atrium, with a specially commissioned floor mosaic by Dutch artist Rob Birza, is positioned at the core of the building beneath a series of geometric light shafts that echo the original coffered ceilings.

View of the exterior of the neoclassical building, which was built in 1917

‘The change in hierarchical relations and the importance of the ground floor has been expressed in the front façade by enlarging the windows: the openings have been taken down to the stone plinth of the building, moving the window sills down and lengthening the jambs,’ says Scipio.

On the exterior, the new sandblasted concrete frames were infilled with stone and a colouring agent matching the tones of the original building and in other parts of the building, materials were also matched including the interior finishes of grey Israeli imestone and American oak. KAAN added highly polished anodised aluminium to window frames and fixtures for a contemporary finish, achieving a fine balance between restoration and modernisation throughout the project.

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