The investigation of the site and the diverse town planning structures in the environment may be focused on two main themes:
- the creation of a strong identity for the Ensemble Westraven itself – it should function as an Island, as a microstructure within the city structure
- the attempt to achieve the most possible ‘urban Integration’ into the existing and intended town planning surroundings.
The Ensemble Westraven itself appears as a solitary building at the edge of the city directly at the waterside of the Amsterdam Rijnkanaal.
Regarding the mentioned points we suggest to put the ministry on a ‘silver tray’, to place it on a ‘carpet’ above the water. The Rijkswaterstaat as “master of the water”. This “carpet”, of course, has to support the attitude of the building and the architecture as well.
One of the main tasks is to find both, the right scale concerning the building, and, different atmospheres and moods concerning the quality of spaces used by the people.
This aim may be achieved by reduced means: the concentration on a calm ‘water carpet’ which will also function as a mirror and which will start a dialog between the glass facades, the art of Ned Kahn, the sky and the water of the canal…
Due to some technical problematics and prohibitions the ‘carpet’ had to be reduced in size during the preliminary design development. Regarding the alternative solution, the lawn with the polished structure used as a ‘drawing’, this was difficult. Regarding the main concept, the water carpet, size and power of the water are still convincing. That’s why we suggest to follow the water-concept.
Approaching the building means getting the first impression. The entrance area is the place where the client welcomes his guests and employees. Therefore the ‘picture’ of a square, of an inviting plaza would be appropriate.
The lane for the access road could be integrated in the plaza without showing itself as a main road. In front of the building the ‘water carpet’ would appear as a huge element on that square, as a second layer. To the north, there will be a more charming atmosphere under weeping willows along the former ditch.
This entrance area will be kept free of parking cars and bicycles. A Bus-stop-position and parking loft for disabled people are located west of the entrance area. Six busses may find their parking position under the bridge. East of the building there may also be a charming area under trees, which connects to the canal and the green ‘park area’ opposite of the canal.
Between the edge of the water carpet and the canal should be one linear sitting element.
The entrance hall has to connect inside and outside spaces.
For the public area there might be a poetic white space, very reduced, with lounge furniture. A space where you are inside and outside at the same time, with slim and high columns and covered by a web.
Here the visitor as well as the employee may find a place to sit down in futuristic lounge sofas, allowing his mind to feel free and to look outside, to see the sky above and to think about the future.
From above there could hang some green “candelabra” with scurrile shaped twiners.
In contrast the employees’ garden might represent the image of surprising opulent paradise. In the green space full of plants there may be some paradise birds in a volière, white ducks in an enclosured area, a pond full of goldfishes. Twiners growing along wires lead vertically and diagonally across the space. In some hidden places there are chairs to sit and relax.
The terrace around the building integrates technical requirements and offers the possibility to use it even as ‘terrace’.
Concerning the environment of the site it would be useful to ‘refresh’ some areas. The surrounding elements could be used as a frame, could provide the ‘stage’ around the building.
From the crossroads at the Transferium it is not possible to see the tower. Therefore the view to the edge of the Ministry Building should be focussed – for example by lines of colouring poplars, used like curtains.
If the Transferium could be covered with an astonishing material, it could become a sculpture itself. Another possibility is to make it less important by covering it with trees. The suggested solution is the attempt to achieve best qualities and atmospheres by reduced means.
The project has been awarded Dutsch ‘Construction Award 2009’, ‘Daylight Award 2008’ nominated for ‘National Steel Prize’, nominated for ‘Building of the Year 2008’, nominated for ‘Mies van der Rohe Award 2009’.
+ Project credits / data
Project: Utrecht, ´Rijkswaterstaat´ Ministry of transport and waterfeatures
Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands
Design: WES International GmbH | http://www.wesup.de/utre05082.html, with Architectenbureau cepezed
Photographers: Peter Christiaan, Jannes Linders
+ About WES International
The office is conducted by the four partners Peter Schatz, Wolfgang Betz, Michael Kaschke and Henrike Wehberg-Krafft. Hinnerk Wehberg is involved as advisor and representative. We place a great deal of importance on all of the working phases, imposing high standards regarding design, content, “artistic” quality, and professional realisation.
The work of our firm encompasses the architectural design of interior and exterior spaces, the planning of open spaces and sites and the preparation of property surveys and urban planning concepts as well as “Kunst am Bau” (the German concept of construction-related public art).
Along with many pioneering projects in Germany and Europe, such as the Jungfernstieg in Hamburg, the grounds for the new head offices of the German magazine “Spiegel” in Hamburg, the “Autostadt Wolfsburg”, the International Garden Exhibition 2003 in Rostock and the grounds for the Dutch Ministry of Transport and Waterfeatures “Rijkswaterstaat” in Utrecht, WES International is currently taking on an increasing number of projects in China and Arab regions.
The exceptional quality of WES International’s work is demonstrated through its continual success in international design competitions. In recent years the firm has won numerous prizes, including first prize for the master plan Dubai Pearl with ASP Schweger Associated Architects, first prize for the site plan of the mosque Grande Mosquée d’Alger in Algiers with the architectural firm KSP Jürgen Engel Architekten and first prize for the site plan of China Mobile South Base in Guangzhou with gmp, von Gerkan, Marg und Partner.
WES International was also chosen as the best landscape architecture firm in Germany in 2008 by the jury of the international book “Made in Germany – Best of Contemporary Architecture”. Tim Richardson ranks the office among the 50 visionaries of the contemporary Landscape in his book “Avant Gardeners”.