Published: Friday, October 12, 2007
By: 3XN Architects
South east corner.
Graphic arts of light.
A public building provides the physical contact between citizen and state. This personal encounter in flesh and blood is the most important interface in a democratic society.
Compared to the internet, telephone, mail, newspapers, television and other media where the authorities communicate with the citizen, architecture is able to offer a wider spectrum of communicative means and to communicate on both conscious and unconscious levels.
The three-dimensional hall, the light, the layout, the materials, the climate and the stories that are integrated in the design and shape of the building provide a wide range of opportunities to create the right atmosphere around this personal encounter. In many ways, the design of the building signals the notion of authority that a citizen should have.
When building a modern city hall, it is therefore crucial to be aware of these means in order to lay the foundation for the best possible encounter.
Transparency, friendliness and an encounter at eye level should, in 3XN's opinion, characterize public buildings today - as opposed to a monumental "power demonstration".
An example of our attitude and approach to public buildings is the recently constructed Muziekgebouw aan't Ij where this friendly openness and feeling of closeness and presence have been crucial parameters behind the building's popularity.
Stadshuis in Nieuwegein is a significant building as it mixes the traditional City Hall facilities with a multicultural centre, a library and commercial facilities. In this way, the city hall merges with everyday life. 3XN has focused on uniting the wish for intimacy and openness with the desire to design an important democratic institution with dignity.
The design of the building volume signals influence and authority that is important due to its anchor position in the new city plan. Furthermore, it is horizontally divided in two blocs with a green outdoor garden situated in-between. The division makes it clear that there are two specialized functions in the building: the commercial facilities and open public activities are placed in the bottom section of the building while the facilities that are not open to the public are placed in the upper part. All facilities are integrated as a whole, and the key words have been overview, high visibility and public accessibility.
Previously, public buildings were placed in the city centre along with the church and the market. With the new Stadshuis, the city centre has been replaced by an atrium inside the building, and becomes a three-dimensional urban landscape.
Exposure and accessibility to many of the facilities have been subject to very high demands. Traditionally, these facilities would be placed around the mentioned city centre. However, all the city hall facilities including citizen service, the library, the commercial activities, the multicultural centre and all the other facilities take up too much space on ground level. Therefore, a traditional exposure is not possible. The three-dimensional atrium creates exposure and accessibility in an alternative way. The disposure of the protruding floors creates a topographical lay out which makes it possible to move around and up and down in the building.
Graphic arts of light.
The new Stadshuis is designed with terraced open floors that are rotated around a tall public hall -- a three-dimensional atrium which winds up and conjoins the building. The floors are protruding into the public hall like a fan with independent surfaces. The rotation of the floors allows the visitor a view from one floor to the next all the way up and down through the building.
An open staircase softly winds up through the building and connects the floors. Newly wedded couples may enjoy a promenade down this magnificent staircase. Some of the protruding floors are inter-connected by amphi-staircases which offer the visitor relaxing stays and informal encounters.
When standing in this three-dimensional atrium, the visitor is able to see all the other facilities that the building offers, and the topography of the building is an extraordinary experience. An example of this vertical design is also seen in 3XN's Muziekgebouw where the foyer balconies connected to the concert hall protrude into the public hall -- visible, but not immediately accessible. Another example is our College in Orestaden, Copenhagen.
Each floor has a natural zone division. Closest to the public hall are all the visible, active and open zones while the zones for tranquility and discretion are placed further away -- towards the outer facades.
A number of giant pillars comprise, among others, elevators, toilets and other staircases. These staircases enable fast and informal encounters, staff and emergency exits. The giant pillars define and divide the open and flexible floors in the larger sections of the building which gives the layout a logic structure. This enables numerous options for individual interior designs without affecting the overall design of the building.
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