Reconstruction of the modernist building in Meppel, the Netherlands
In 2013, consortium SVESMI and KZNA has initiated a project to reconstruct and rethink the former Employment Agency built in the late 1960s in the picturesque city centre.
Meppel, the Netherlands
– David Koezen – Alexander Sverdlov – Diana Ciuffo – Giovanni Belotti
View from the Galmanspad
This reconstruction of the 1960s municipal building has been initiated by SVESMI and KZNA architects in 2013. 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.
The team has studied the existing structure, proposed a viable redevelopment scheme, negotiated with the municipality, and only then found a client for an already well-articulated project.
In a way, this project is a reaction to one of the major problems of the Netherlands – an enormous untapped potential of unused buildings in this country – so well described by the Vacant NL exhibition in the Dutch pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2010.
For decades, local inhabitants have been cycling along an unattractive ruin on a picturesque Galmanspad embankment...
A relatively small city of Meppel in the province of Drenthe – previously an important crossover of trade waterways - 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.
Although not really valuable from an architectural point of view, this building had certain inherent qualities that could have been exploited through a smart reconstruction: the scale appropriate for this area; balanced proportions; clear tripartite vertical division and well-articulated horizontal bays; large windows; and great views over the city and water.
After the completion of the project the municipality granted the permission to park the boats next to the Villa "Office"...
After the Agency has moved out in the 1980s, the building remained vacant for decades. The municipality did not have neither the budget, nor the clear concept for adaptation of this quickly deteriorating space to the needs of the city. With its cheap materials, the former office soon became an unattractive, shabby shell, playing down the character of the area and polluting the atmosphere of the beautiful Galmanspand with its sad vibes.
Nevertheless, the team saw some potential in the main structure of the building. 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.
Each of three new villas has a generous entering zone on the ground floor, a living room with a kitchen zone and an exit to the gallery-balcony on the first, and a more intimate bedroom space with a roof terrace on the third.
All levels are interconnected by stairs and elevators and have direct access to the outside.
The glass façade, which works as a huge reflective mirror from the canal side, is one of the main features of the Villa "Office". Horizontal belts in dark metal and white marble create clear division between level one and two, while the columns positioned behind the glass just hint at the vertical partitions dividing the space of the former office into three distinct dwellings.
The facade is topped by three rectangular structures housing the bedrooms and clad in thin wooden splines – an extra level added to the original building. The contrast between the large and smooth glass surface and the opaque wooden material of these compact blocks creates the visual tension and emphasizes nuanced rhythms of the building's architecture.