Court rules: KAAN Architects create a new civic building in the Hague

Court rules: KAAN Architects create a new civic building in the Hague

The Korte Voorhout is an elegant and historic portion of The Hague, hosting embassies, international organizations and a wide selection of governmental and royal buildings. The newest addition to this regal road is the Supreme Court of The Netherlands, designed by Rotterdam based Kaan Architects.

The architecture practice, headed by Kees Kaan, Vincent Panhuysen and Dikkie Scipio, secured the prestigious commission with an innovative and complex, yet thoroughly modern proposal. The trio and their team set out to try and encapsulate the high council’s rich history and judicial legacy, translating them into a clean, vibrant and highly functioning space.

Planning the 18,000 sq m building, which will house 350 staff was no easy task, as the architects had to work with many restrictions. The result is a building divided into three separate sections; one for the public, one for the council, and a third for the procurator general staff. Each of these three entities requires a clearly defined and separate route when navigating the building, as it is not allowed for them to meet at any moment on their way to the courtrooms. As complex as this would sound, the architects made the result appear effortless.

The public’s entrance, adorned with six bronze statues of legal scholars, leads into the light and spacious grand foyer. The space, which guides visitors to the two courtrooms, features a large art piece by painter Helen Verhoeven, titled ‘Hoge Raad’ (’high council’ in Dutch) and inspired by the country’s history and the balance of justice and injustice.

The interior is subtle but luxurious, featuring Marmara Equator marble from Turkey. The building’s main volume sits on a green tinted glazed base, which appears to absorb and almost mimic the surrounding row of trees - locally affectionately known as the ‘green cathedral’. This impressive glass strip on the ground level is possible thanks to a cantilevered internal structure that fully supports the weight of the floors above, which house offices, a library, study areas, a restaurant and meeting rooms. 

‘It is possible for contemporary architecture to express this transition and function of society and democracy’ says Kaan, on the central essence of his project.

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