Delft, The Netherlands
Modesty is rare amongst global architectural practices, yet Dutch firm Mecanoo is an exception. With major projects under way from New York to Taiwan, Mecanoo has recently completed a surprisingly understated railway station and municipal offices in its hometown of Delft that also helps repair a torn urban fabric. But the project’s most memorable feature, a soaring railway hall, is discreetly concealed beyond its unassuming exterior.
Mecanoo founding partner Francine Houben maintains that the practice eschews trophy buildings and seeks inspiration in each specific context. What commission could be more apt for designing a project that is “of its place” than a major civic building for Delft? This picturesque city of 100,000, where the 160-strong practice occupies an 18thcentury canal house, is best known as home to Johannes Vermeer and Royal Delft blue-and-white ceramics.
With the station, Mecanoo interprets “local” literally, incorporating an enlarged map of the city into the undulating ceiling of its welcoming railway hall (a device they used at the new headquarters for the Boston Public Schools [RECORD, August 2015, page 94]). The building also creates a much needed crossroads for the city. As the centerpiece of a $1.1 billion, 59-acre master plan by Barcelona urban planner (and Harvard professor) Joan Busquets, the station spans a new four-track 1.4-mile-long tunnel, which replaced a 1960s viaduct that fractured Delft for half a century. Bridging the historic core to the northeast, recent residential zones to the west, and a new bus terminal and canal-side public park to the south, the building forms part of an ambitious plan to stitch the city back together.
“Connectivity is what this building is all about,” says partner and project architect Francesco Veenstra. “The building will be a new beating heart for Delft’s municipal government and will provide offices for about a thousand civil servants and local politicians.” Underscoring its democratic role, the building does not have a prominent main entrance; instead, it can be entered on four sides.
Generous stairs and escalators bring travelers arriving by train to the street-level concourse, deftly sandwiched between the platforms below and municipal offices above. The ceiling is formed by almost 2,000 aluminum baffles, individually printed to replicate a historic map of 1877 Delft over a length of 425 feet. The pixelated effect is mesmerizing and creates a sense of arrival, harkening back to the grand stations of the 19th century. Bold mushroom columns, clad in a Gaudi-like treatment of hand-cracked tiles in white and three shades of blue, nod to the city’s Royal Delft heritage. A playful circular lightwell illuminates the elegant black basalt floor.
Given all this, it is somewhat surprising that the building’s glazed exterior does not communicate the civic stature that is so apparent inside. With the footprint and envelope determined by the master plan, Mecanoo has downplayed the mass of the required 178,000 square feet of office space by carving away upper floors and introducing deep terraces at the second level.
According to the architects, these terraces replicate the dimensions of Delft’s historic alleyways. Unfortunately, despite their herringbone brick paving, the spaces smack more of corporate anonymity than of inviting outdoor amenity. The scale and irregular rhythm of the cladding—a mix of high-performance transparent glazing and opaque glass panels punctuated by lens-like spheres that resemble the bottom of wine bottles (a reference to a local glazing vernacular)—relate well to neighboring buildings. Yet there is no escaping that this is a very large office building.
The architects were uniquely poised to tackle Delft’s railway-infrastructure challenge. Houben curated Rotterdam’s first architecture biennale on urban mobility in 2003. “As architects, we learn in school how to make a street or a square or a neighborhood,” she says, “but we never deal with the experience of people’s daily travel, such as the trip from Delft to Rotterdam—we have no vision for that.”
The Netherlands is undergoing a spurt of railway station redevelopment, with eight major stations currently in transformation. Complex phasing meant that the country’s busiest train route, between Rotterdam and the Hague, was closed for only one week over the course of construction. Houben explains that the building’s full impact will only be apparent once the municipal offices are completed next year and the master plan, which allows for 800 apartments and hundreds of thousands of feet of commercial and other space, is built out, largely in brick. Then the civic building will stand out as a gleaming “pearl,” she says.
Despite Houben’s vision, the reserved exterior of Delft’s new station and municipal offices is difficult to distinguish from a welldesigned office building. In contrast with the exuberance of the adjacent 1875 railway station (a proposal is afoot to convert the now-empty building, by Rijksmuseum architect Christiaan Posthumus Meyjes Sr., into a restaurant), with its stone-trimmed brick pavilions and onion cupola, or Mecanoo’s own bold library nearby at the Delft University of Technology, the true delight of this building is mostly inside.
Francine Houben, partner in charge/project architect; Francesco Veenstra, partner in charge/project architect
Interior designer: Mecanoo architecten b.v., Delft , The Netherlands
Structural engineer: ABT bv, Delft, The Netherlands
Mechanical engineer: Deerns Raadgevende Ingenieurs B.V., Rijswijk, The Netherlands
Masterplan: Juan Busquets/ BAU Barcelona, Spain
Lighting: Lichtontwerpers, De Pol, The Netherlands (concept) / Deerns Raadgevende Ingenieurs B.V., Rijswijk, The Netherlands(developed design)
Acoustical: LBP|Sight, Nieuwegein, The Netherlands
Building costs: Basalt bouwadvies, Nieuwegein, The Netherlands
Building physics: LBP|Sight, Nieuwegein, The Netherlands
Fire safety: LBP|Sight, Nieuwegein, The Netherlands
Ceiling graphics: Geerdes Ontwerpen, Huizen, The Netherlands
General contractor: BAM Utiliteitsbouw, Bunnik, The Netherlands
Client: ProRail and Gemeente Delft
Owner: NS (station); Gemeente Delft (offices)
Size: 305,000 square feet
Cost: $17 million (station hall); $92 million (offices)
Completion Date: February 2015 (station); December 2015 (offices phase I); December 2016 (expected, offices phase II)
Combination concrete and steel frame
Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project
Hollandia Structures, Heijningen, The Netherlands (steel frame)
Metal/glass curtain wall: AKS Bouw BV, Grubbenvorst, The Netherlands (with materials by Schüco and Stabalux)
EIFS, ACM, or other: Leebo, Nieuwkuijk, The Netherlands (ACM, exterior ground floor ceiling)
Curtain wall: AKS Bouw BV, Grubbenvorst, The Netherlands (with materials by Schüco and Stabalux)
Other cladding unique to this project: Saint-Gobain, Courbevoie, France (ornamental glass facade panels)
Built-up roofing: Kalzip Benelux, Berchem, Belgium (standing seam roof),
Other: Wienerberger B.V., Zaltbommel, The Netherlands (patio paving)
Metal frame: AKS Bouw BV, Grubbenvorst, The Netherlands (with materials by Schüco and Stabalux)
Glass: Scheuten Glas, Venlo, The Netherlands / Saint-Gobain, Courbevoie, France
Skylights: AKS Bouw BV, Grubbenvorst, The Netherlands
Entrances: Boon Edam Nederland B.V., Edam, The Netherlands (tournikets)
Metal doors: AKS Bouw BV, Grubbenvorst, The Netherlands (with materials by Schüco, ODS Jansen and Merford)
Locksets: FSB Nederland, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands
Closers: DORMA Nederland B.V., Dodewaard, The Netherlands
Acoustical ceilings: Ecophon, Etten-Leur, The Netherlands / Vogl Deckensysteme GmbH, Emskirchen, Germany (perforated plaster board ceiling)
Baffle ceiling: Integra Metal Ceiling Systems B.V., Westzaan, The Netherlands
Suspension grid: API BV, Harderwijk, The Netherlands
Demountable partitions: Maars Partitioning Systems B.V., Harderwijk, The Netherlands
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Meubelmakerij Het Woud B.V., Weesp, The Netherlands
Paints and stains: PPG Coatings Nederland B.V., Uithoorn, The Netherlands (Sigma Coatings)
Wall coverings: PPG Coatings Nederland B.V., Uithoorn, The Netherlands (ProGold) / Airtex Magic FR by Mehler Texnologies GmbH, Hückelhoven, Germany (printed foil)
Paneling: Maars Partitioning Systems B.V., Harderwijk, The Netherlands (acoustic paneling); Meubelmakerij Het Woud B.V., Weesp, The Netherlands (acoustic paneling)
Plastic laminate: Crystal White by Pfleiderer Benelux B.V., Vught, The Netherlands (HPL furniture)
Solid surfacing: Duracryl Flooring Systems, Capelle a/d Ijssel, The Netherlands (seamless floor)
Special surfacing: Maasdam, Waddinxveen, The Netherlands (Oak floor board)
Floor and wall tile (cite where used): Dekker Natuursteen, Loosdrecht, The Netherlands (stone paving, Olivian black), Global collection 2nd edition (hand cracked in Italy, mosaic tiles in station hall) and Color collection (restrooms) by Mosa, Maastricht, The Netherlands
Carpet: Scale collection by Vorwerk & Co. Hameln, Germany (office floors)
Raised flooring: Seco BV, Breda, The Netherlands
Special interior finishes unique to this project: MakeCover, Alphen a/d Rijn, The Netherlands produced the printed foil on baffles. Foil is by 3M, Delft, The Netherlands
Reception furniture: Meubelmakerij Het Woud B.V., Weesp, The Netherlands
Interior ambient lighting: ETAP BV, Breda, The Netherlands
Downlights: Hoffmeister Leuchten GMBH, Schalksmühle, Germany
Task lighting: ETAP BV, Breda, The Netherlands
Elevators/Escalators: Schindler Liften BV, Den Haag, The Netherlands
Accessibility provision (lifts, ramping, etc.): Lödige Benelux B.V., ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
VOLA Nederland BV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands / Hansgrohe BV, Westknollendam, The Netherlands
Energy management or building automation system: Geothermal heating system
Photovoltaic system: Prepared for installation
Other unique products that contribute to sustainability: Greencal opzoeken