MVRDV commissioned to transform Herman Hertzberger’s Centraal Beheer building into a new residential area
Designed for an insurance company, Herman Hertzberger’s Centraal Beheer building in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, is widely recognized as one of the hallmarks of the structuralist movement. MVRDV, in consultation with Herman Hertzberger’s AHH office, is transforming the famous building, making it the centerpiece of a new sustainable residential neighborhood while preserving its fundamental structure and principles. The project is part of a larger development area, a three-hectare site near the city’s train station. MVRDV’s design proposal features approximately 650-800 homes while emphasizing preservation, greening and innovation.
The Centraal Beheer building, inaugurated in 1972, revolutionized office design. Hertzberger designed the main element, a 9-meter cube, then repeated and adjusted it along two central “streets”, forming the social center of the building. These interior spaces also develop vertically and horizontally. This results in complex interior spaces, with many nooks and crannies where people can have a coffee, relax or hold meetings. The lighting, considered an integral part of the architecture, is designed in terms of public lighting. The use of transparent materials contrasts with the strongly dimensioned main structure and brings natural light into the offices. The building has gained international fame due to its complex formal expression achieved by using simple elements.
MVRDV was commissioned to renovate the now disused building and its surroundings into a new residential area. The vision extends structuralist principles from the office building to the entire site. The axes defining the central streets will inform and form part of the most important routes through the site, reinforcing Hertzberger’s original design vision.
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The Centraal Beheer building and the Pakhoedtorens, which are also part of the site, will contain a variety of accommodation. The original structure will be reused as much as possible and restored with sustainable materials. In addition to offering a diversified housing offer, the project also aims to reintroduce the social dimension of the complex by creating attractive public places for future residents. Transforming the existing building will not only preserve Dutch architectural heritage, but it is also a more environmentally friendly option, as renovation produces less CO2 emissions than new buildings.
It’s a super cool mission. Herman Hertzberger is an important role model for me. While studying at Delft University of Technology, he was one of my teachers, along with Aldo van Eyck and Rem Koolhaas – a nice trio. I worked with him twice on InDeSem, the international design seminar he organized. His social agenda makes him an inspiring architect for me, and I feel a kinship with him; just as Herman launched a whole new office landscape in the early 70s, so did MVRDV in the early 90s with Villa VPRO. We took the client on a tour of the Central Beheer building, and it opened his mind; it became a source of inspiration for our own work. – Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV
The structure of Centraal Beheer will continue in the new district and new buildings. The 9 meter grid will form the basis of the new design, but wood will be used as the main building material to distinguish the later structures from the original. The landscape will also have a clear grid-based pattern, in which a ‘wilder’ infill with trees, grasses, water and games and sports facilities can be incorporated.
MVRDV builds its experience in the revitalization of disused public spaces. Tripolis Park in Amsterdam, which renovates Aldo van Eyck’s Tripolis office complex, is currently under construction. A new glazed extension proposed by MVRDV protects the building from dust and noise from the nearby highway. In Utrecht, the master plan for the new Jaarbeurs was launched at the end of 2019, ensuring that one of the oldest trade fairs in the Netherlands will retain its place in the center of Utrecht.