An angular wooden staircase ascends the lobby of this office renovation in the Dutch town of Hoofddorp by Amsterdam-based architects Studioninedots. De Burgemeester is a commercial property in Netherlands that was renovated by the architects team and opened on November 5th, 2013. According Studioninedots the secret of the transformation is “A vertical lobby featuring an open staircase where people meet face to face, a space that brings people together both literally and figuratively. We space. That’s our name for this communal area at the heart of the building. It’s a place that brings people together. Out of the concrete floors we carved a 14-metre-tall void that houses a giant staircase that cuts diagonal lines through the void as it makes its way upwards, linking the different floors to one another.”
“Now people are on the move, making their way back and forth on the timber steps. Some of them linger for a chat, and there’s space on the broad treads to sit for a moment. The sound of chatter and the aroma of coffee from the café below now fill the hall. Most of the office space has already been leased, bringing the building back to life once again.”
The De Burgemeester building was part of a ‘cloud’ of blue foam models on show in the Dutch pavilion at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale. In an exhibition entitled ‘Vacant NL’, the pavilion housed a vast model that depicted all the unoccupied buildings in the Netherlands. “The exhibition proved confrontational for the way it captured the sheer scale of empty space and rendered it visible at a glance, and for the conclusion expressed: the era of growth is finished, and scarcely anything more needs to be built.”
At the same time, that sea of blue also contained a promise. Vacant NL posed a creative challenge to architects: discover the potential of these buildings; adapt them for our era of economic stagnation and population decline; transform them, temporary or otherwise, into flexible and sustainable structures; to ensure a new appreciation of these buildings.
all images © PETER CUYPERS