The Knoop barracks in the centre of Utrecht date from 1989 and served for decades as the headquarters of the Royal Netherlands Army. Now the building has been radically transformed into a combined office and meeting centre for the national government.
cepezed made the architectural design of the transformation. The office was commissioned by the R Creators, the consortium formed by Strukton, Ballast Nedam and Facilicom, that undertook
the Design, Build, Finance, Maintain & Operate (DBFMO) assignment with an exploitation term of 20 years. Fokkema & Partners Architecten was involved for the interior design of the new complex and Rijnboutt for the aspect of urban planning.
The original complex was characterized by a pronounced diversity of volumes of varying heights and floor sizes as well as meandering façades with smoked-glass solar shading. In the redevelopment designed by cepezed, radical adaptations have been combined with part demolition, new-build expansion and a completely new urban embedding over several height levels. A transparent and double-height plinth contains general functions such as the entrance zone, a café, restaurant and flexible workspaces. The existing 12-storey building houses all the office functions, and the characteristic octagonal concrete columns have been left completely visible. Removal of the many interior walls has resulted in more light, air, openness and transparency. In the existing building, hybrid ceiling islands specially engineered for the project mean that lowered ceilings are no longer necessary there and thanks to the limited storey height, there is still a maximum of spatial quality. The meeting centre is located in an extension with eight high storeys. The new and existing buildings come together in a transparent atrium and a transport zone with lifts and staircases.
In the meeting centre there are break squares and guest workspaces bordering on and in direct connection with the atrium. However to enjoy quietness, the meeting rooms are situated further away from the atrium. The complex has a clean-lined skin with vertical articulation that binds the different components together. As a result, recesses in the original building contour create voids which contribute to the internal spatial quality.
Considerable attention has been paid to sustainability, which has been realized through measures that include optimal reuse of the existing building, a large degree of flexibility and, for example, the application of triple glazing, vetted materials and a partly green roof. A large surface area of solar panels, use of the cumulative mass of the existing concrete structure and an energy system based on recirculation and heat recovery are important other aspects, as is automatic movement detection for the lighting and CO2 measurement for climate control.