- Houben / van Mierlo
Text description provided by the architects. Transformation office building Schubertsingel Den Bosch. Diagonally opposite the county hall in Den Bosch stood the former Rijkswaterstaat office building (1977). It was built in a brutalist, no-nonsense concrete architecture, but placed within the neighbourhood with surprising sensitivity and modesty, as if it were a guest. Yet it is here to stay.
The character of this building, with its strikingly heavy construction, projections and special concrete details, was reason enough to redevelop it in a sustainable way. From an urban development perspective, it was also important not to add any (new build) volumes to this location. The main question was how this building, which was socially isolated within the area, could be transformed into a building that was no longer a guest, but an integral part of the neighbourhood.
Based on its powerful appearance and ‘landing’ in the neighbourhood, the existing building particularly needed more contact with its surroundings. This objective has been realised in several ways; the programmatic connection with the environment has been taken into account, as well as ways of opening up the building and bringing the surrounding landscape inside.
One of the interventions used to achieve this is the creation of a hollow core inside the building. The internal courtyard has thus been lowered by a metre and the existing stairs have been lengthened from ground level to meet this square. This gives the dynamics of the courtyard a real boost. The external stairs on this inner square also contribute to this. Residents are encouraged to ‘flow out’ of the building on to ground level, instead of disappearing into anonymous stairwells. As such, residents and visitors meet each other and enter into conversation.
The green courtyard and the connection with the existing pond also stimulates the residents’ collective. By incorporating another function into the ground floor in the form of a dental centre (orthodontics, laboratory and dentists), the building has become part of the neighbourhood and thus more approachable. The routes taken by the residents of the building and the visitors to this social/commercial location intersect; a conscious choice that increases the dynamics and amount of contact.
The existing (mostly hidden) unique construction components of the building have been stripped of their camouflage. The brutalist concrete construction has been unpacked and made visible from both the exterior and interior. When entering or exiting the residential building, you even literally walk under it and can almost touch it.
The rhythm of the original construction has been made visible in the façade composition through the hybrid grid, immediately behind which is the balcony or residence. The position of a balcony, or more living space, is in line with the orientation of the sun and the desired programme. This façade grid, completed in glass, has also ensured that it is possible to realise a residential programme in this location that is challenging in terms of noise.
The two-layered addition has loaded and intensified the place and the building, so that the desired programme could be realised. A smart weight reduction in the existing building on the first, second and third layers, and an overcapacity in the foundations has meant that the building could be extended by not just one but two layers without needing constructive alterations to the existing foundations. This has not only benefited the programme, but also the urban/architectonic composition.