The Town Hall of Leiden was built in the early 1930s, behind a historic facade dating from the 1600s, the only segment that survived the great fire of 1929. The entire construction has a monumental status. The municipality is currently working towards modernization, with among others, a more efficient and flexible use of the building. The introduction of ‘Smart Working’ is also part of this transition. Being selected as one of three agencies, cepezed made a proposal.
The town hall needs to become the heart of the city, which is complicated by the rather closed nature of the building. The imposing construction consists of two parallel, elongated wings which are connected by two lower components. All components are characterized by closed rooms on both sides of a dark central corridor. The centre of the four building sections contains an open space that was transformed into atrium in the nineties.
Because the existing public desks in the atrium will move to a different location, this area offers many opportunities. In the plan by cepezed, it will be designed as a multifunctional City Chamber that is a café to work from during weekdays. This space can also be used for events such as debates, presentations, exhibitions or workshops. Because the walls in the existing situation are relatively closed, the design of cepezed contains several cut-outs. These create longer sightlines and more visual interaction between the office floors and the public functions below.
In this proposal, not only the atrium and the existing public spaces as the boardroom or wedding hall act as the heart of the city. A new, open design of the offices creates more liveliness and mutual cohesion. This is achieved by the removal of passageways and partitions. The open structure also provides capacity for a larger number of civil servants and it is more spacious, allows more daylight and is more flexible than the former cell structure.
The use of materials and the appearance of the renewed cepezed city hall are in modern contrast with the historical elements. This makes the whole a startling unity.