In reversal of a habitual pattern, when a client hires an architect to make a project for a particular territory in the city, the architects took initiative themselves to expose the potential of the selected plot and the existing structure. SVESMI team proposed a viable redevelopment scheme, negotiated with the municipality, and only then found a client for an already quite well-articulated project.
The investment of time and effort was a way to ignite the project that would respond very precisely to the team’s vision of what a contemporary preservation project could and should be and allow for a design scheme that reinterprets modest municipal modernism to adapt to a variety of today’s demands.
A relatively small city of Meppel in the province of Drenthe is famous for its charming 17th century centre and picturesque navigable canals. Along one of those, a municipal Employment Agency (Arbeidsbureau) was built in the late 1960s.
A modest concrete and glass rectangle was a typical example of the Dutch provincial modernism of that period –
non-sensational, uncharacteristic, cheap, and small scale.
After the Agency has moved out in the 1980s, the building remained vacant for decades. Nevertheless, the team saw some potential in its main structure. We proposed to transfer it into private hands and transform the mundane-looking office into three contemporary villas united by one roof and one glass façade, reflecting the surrounding old town.
The realized Villa “Office” has considerably improved the value of the area and delicately added the new qualities to the city context. With its transparency, playful reflections, a very nuanced light choreography, and at the same time attention to the original proportions of the modernist structure, Villa “Office” has become the first example of proactive preservation and rethinking of the outdated welfare modernity in the area.