Architects: LEVS Architecten
Location: Den Helder, The Netherlands
Client: Rijksgebouwendienst (Dutch Government Building Department)
Project Year: 2006
Project Area: 14,500 sqm
Photographs: Courtesy of LEVS Architecten
A paradoxical task: a closed juvenile institute with maximum security in combination with an environment where 144 juvenile residents between the ages of 12 and 18 can receive optimal treatment. The open and relaxed design of the Federal Institute for Youths (RIJ) makes for a privileged environment inside the protection and limitations of a wall.
The RIJ is built like a village, with homes and streets, a school and a sportsbuilding. Inside the oval shaped ring wall are 12 pavilions with living and sleeping quarters for 10 youths situated around a walkway. Although it is a covered walkway, it is open on the side so that weather and wind can be felt during the daily walk to school and sports.
The walkway (street) connects the pavilions with the general buildings in the center: the sports building, the education and treatment building and the general offices. Between these buildings are 3 remote outdoor areas.
In 2006 a new pavilion was opened. The expansion was made on a section of the transportation site of De Doggershoek and is connected inside with the walkway in the RIJ. The expansion offers living and sleeping accommodation for 2 groups of 12 youths. On the ground floor are the large living area, auxiliary rooms and team rooms. A large void connects the living area with a large hall way on the top floor. The entrances to the sitting/sleeping quarters are uniquely lit by natural daylight. Color schemes respond differently to the light and create a constantly changing atmosphere and intensity. The pavilion is an abstract building, its few windows interact with the white grey wooden façade, and the deep folds that are created give the pavilion a mysterious appearance. The interior, with its halls and patios on the other hand, are a warm red brown.
The RIJ borders on the city and rural area and is in harmony with the heritage of the old seaport Den Helder; a fourth bulwark in addition to the three existing historical forts. It is an archetype of a building where there is no relation between inside and outside: for Den Helder the building is the wall and a fort, but inside the wall the RIJ is a village in its own right.