Acoustic Barrier / ONL

Architects: ONL [Oosterhuis_Lénárd]
Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands
Design team: Kas Oosterhuis, Ilona Lénárd, Cas Aalbers, Sander Boer, Tom Hals, Dimitar Karanikolov, Tom Smith, Richard Lewis, Barbara Janssen, Gijs Joosen, Andrei Badescu, Maciek Swiatkowski, Rafael Seemann
Engineering: ONL, Meijers Staalbouw BV, Pilkington Benelux BV
Client: Projectbureau Leidsche Rijn Utrecht
Production: Meijers Staalbouw BV
Project year: 2006
Budget: US $6,52 M
Photographs: ONL [Oosterhuis_Lénárd]

The architectural-urban planning project Hessing Cockpit in Acoustic Barrier is innnovative in several seperate fields:

1. Urban planning innovation

The design integrates a building volume in an acoustic barrier. ONL has defined a few clear design rules, which are specified in the SPVE [urban planning design requirements]. The building is designed with the speed of a car passing at 120km/h. The integrated building volume is stretched in the direction of the flow of cars according to the formula: length: height = 10:1. In the preliminary design a surface is stretched between the elastic top and bottom lines and following the folding lines .

2. Architectural innovation

The design is a pure example of Non Standard Architecture realized on a big scale. Basic principle for the NSA is that all compiled components are in principle different. The exception is the rule. If there are two similar components, it is not on purpose and not relevant. But all exceptions take place in a rigidly defined parametric design system. The adagium “one building, one detail” applies here. NSA is based on the new industrial production method of mass customization. Repetition of similar elements is no longer an economic advantage and it is not a valid argument for the aesthetics of the repetition. Repetition of the same elements is not anymore identical to beauty. The beauty of the NSA principle is now in the shaping of the control of series of thousands of different elements. To acquire these new techniques ONL learned from the designing of industrial products which moves or are moved with a certain speed. One example of this are the folding lines which fade out into the curved surface. Non Standard Architecture is the architecture of smooth transitions.

3. Technical design innovations

The engineering of the geometry was developed in-house at ONL. ONL is entirely responsible for the precise data for the tens of thousands of integrated elements. For this purpose ONL has programmed an effective File to Factory process through the writing of project specific scripts. The scripts describe the geometry exactly and the data is registered in a database. This data is read by the software controlling the production machinery. There is a direct link between the 3d model of the architect and the production machines of the manufacturer. The manufacturer has subsequently written scripts for the further specification and production of the nodes.

4. Technical construction innovation

ONL and Meijers Staalbouw have developped a system of a point cloud of nodes and connection beams. Two different variants are developed for the Acoustic Barrier and the Cockpit, due to the different conditions for both constructions. The Acoustic Barrier has as only demand to consist of 10 kg/m2 mass without noise leak. The Cockpit has insulated glazing and through the ‘inflating’ of the volume the dimensions for the connection beams and the triangular glasplates are twice as big. Both constructions have in common that the complexity is completely integrated in the nodes so that the connection beams are maximally simple. The triangles are also produced as flat surfaces. Double curved are not only more expensive, but wouldn’t enforce the overall image.

5. Building costs innovation

Meijers Staalbouw has offered the whole Acoustic Barrier as a product with a fixed price in close collaboration with ONL. There has been no extra labour. Also for the Cockpit Meijers Staalbouw offered the whole shell [steelconstruction + concrete floors + glass facades + aluminium facades] for a fixed price without mentionable extra work required. The traditional tendering doesn’t work with designs in which construction and geometry are integral part of the architecture. The knowledge of the production and the manner of communication between the architect and the manufacturer needs to be processed in the preliminary stage of the design. This cannot be postponed till the tendering. The Hessing Cockpit building and the Acoustic Barrier would be twice as expensive if they would be tendered on the market as a traditional bidding. The shell of the Cockpit as well as the whole Acoustic Barrier are realized within the budget agreed upon.

Cite: "Acoustic Barrier / ONL" 02 Mar 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 May 2015. <>
  • Cameron

    Gotta love the design philosophy

  • Ceno

    perhaps it’s not only reduce noise (acoustic barier) but blocking polution also

  • rob

    It is my opinion that ONL is going to be one of the most innovative offices within architecture in the years to come. They do not only “test” all the scripting possibilities that are currently going around the globe, but they are questioning them, and actually building with theese techniques. I think the power of this architecture firm cannot be underestimated. While architecture will always be architecture and can be made simple with references to history, ONL are pushing the boundaries without going into graphics and surface like so many other offices around the globe. This office is something to watch out for. Hope they manage to combine their architectural intelligence with a wider scope of competence. Would love to see them do a cooperation with for example JVA/JSA.

  • mir

    got to admit , its very cool. but isnt it a bit a of an overkill? maybe a an earth bund or/and thick row of trees?

  • Erik

    Very nice docu! This is a lot of work! Thanks a lot! Love the design philosophy as well, agree with rob. But I have some remarks at the level of the details, maybe peanuts, but something to think about. See at (left column) or