Building 026 | Arnhem

The old library building has an intriguing new facade and we can’t decide what to call it. We can see it from our office and it’s been a topic of coffee-break conversation for the past few weeks now. Not every day, but often enough. Why are we so keen to give it a name? No idea, that’s just how it is. The building kind of calls for it. The old library was a stern, inward-looking building. It just stood there; now it’s a real presence. And since the renovation it has these strange glass panels with a long bubble. Takes some getting used to, but it’s actually quite beautiful. It’s much nicer to look at a building that you talk about because it’s unusual in some way, instead of never having anything to say about it. 

From dividing line to hinge
The building stands on a dividing line in the city, poised between the historical city centre and the surrounding post-war fabric. The building dates from the 1970s and, thanks to its taut, modernist elevations with long horizontal lines, had a forbidding and closed-off appearance.

Flexible, open and inviting
The transformation consisted of two major interventions: the creation of spatial excess inside the building and the installation of a new facade. The spatial excess was achieved by removing two mezzanine floors, inserting a new floor and decluttering the office floors. These modifications have future-proofed the building’s functionality. Not only is Building 026 now capable of accommodating a wide range of functions, but any future changes in function will be easy to implement. The facade design emphasizes Building 026’s hinge position in the urban fabric. The facade mediates between the human scale of the city centre and the large-scale urban block structure of the post-war fabric. Thus, the new facade consists for the most part of glass, set in rectangular frames that allude to the frames of the historical buildings in the city centre and thus to the human scale. On the side facing the post-war city, the proportion of glass increases, revealing more and more of the floor structure behind it, thereby aligning the building with the more abstract character of the post-war fabric.

Vertical ripples have been applied to the sheets of glass as ornamentation. These ripples serve to give the building an extra layer; they accentuate the vertical facade rhythm by emphasizing the underlying structure of floors and lower walls. At the same time, they render the building tangible and recognizable for Arnhem residents. The preponderance of ripples on the south and west elevations casts a lovely sunlight reflection over the adjacent square.

Opting for points of difference
This design laid down a challenge to the building industry in that it required more intensive and complex material treatments, such as the glass ornamentation. The result is a building that tells a strong story and emphasizes its own features.

Another point of difference is the client’s attitude. The removal of two unmarketable floors inevitably meant a reduction in lettable square metres. However, the building’s owner is convinced that – especially in times of economic stress – the only way to recoup costs is to invest in quality. In a depressed market the number of potential tenants is small and so it is more important than ever to make buildings exceptional and sustainable. This attitude shows that a transformation project focusing on top quality, high ambitions and points of difference is perfectly possible in times of economic stress. It is the only way to produce projects that prove their worth in both good and bad economic times.

Bringing the task into focus
Building 026 is the product of an unusual work process. Reacting to an open call by the building’s owner, V8 Architects, in close collaboration with Colliers International and local real estate agents, embarked on a functional study to find the most promising scenarios for the renovation. As a result, the architects were involved from a very early stage and were able to help formulate and focus the Arnhem commission. This way of working provides a fertile medium in which such a special project can blossom.

Project details
commission: redevelopment of former library | location: Koningstraat Arnhem | client: Colliers International | project management: db-M | structural engineer: ABT | fire safety consultant: DGMR | building services consultant: ABT | contractor: Van Wijnen Oost | sustainability: energy label A | floor area: 14.000 m² | design: 2014 | completion: 2016 | photography: Ossip van Duivenbode and Eva Broekema (black-white) | particularities: nomination NPR Gulden Feniks, nomination Glass Award, nomination Willem Diehlprijs

project website: