Benthem Crouwel Coverstories

In the run up to our 40th anniversary, Benthem Crouwel Architects introduces a reinforced team of seven partners. A great moment to offer a closer look at our work and the vision behind it.

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A Rooftop Gesture

Las Palmas office, Rotterdam

“The Las Palmas offices, right in the middle of Rotterdam’s Wilhelminapier, had to be a recognisable landmark, but not a flamboyant one. It serves as a symbol of renewed urban life on the south side of the river Maas, opposite the old city center. Sitting on top of an older building, it had to be more of a subtle ‘gesture’ than a ‘structure’, a building in its own right.

That’s why we took hints from the surroundings, such as the rounded white chimney and the maritime setting, to come up with a retro-futuristic oval pod, with rounded windows at either side that look like they belong on a cruise ship.

The curtain-like louvers on south facade, blocking sunlight from penetrating the highly transparent building, had to be individually designed and laser-cut so that they could rotate in the irregular oval shape. The lines of the cladding and the walls intersect perfectly, creating a visual harmony. And the roof, which appears perfectly flat, is actually made up of white steel grids so that rainwater can fall through, preventing pools of water and residue.

“We had to bring technical details together without boasting.”

—Marten Wassmann, partner since 2005

To us, the building evokes the nostalgic sense of optimism that was around in the ‘60s, when the original Las Palmas was built. So, for example, you can drive your car into an elevator and take it all the way up to the bottom of the office building, park next to the pod’s legs, and stare out over the vista of Rotterdam harbour. Or you can take a ladder up to the roof and clamber through a submarine-like door, feeling on top of the world.

This centre of urban life would have been different if this building hadn’t been on top. Now there’s a synergy between contemporary architecture and the original Las Palmas building. And for the people inside, there’s this sense: you’ve seen it from the outside, now you’re part of this place.”

Las Palmas office, Rotterdam

For our next highlight, we’ll stay in Rotterdam.

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Car-beating Comfort

Metro Line 18 (in development), Paris

“No transit, no city. Good public transport not only connects the city and makes people feel part of something larger, it reduces inequality and creates social cohesion.

After building many stations around the Netherlands, we wanted to take our expertise further afield. We're now working on four of the 68 new metro stations planned for the outskirts of Paris, which is expanding with dozens of new towns as the old city has reached its limits. Having learnt from its mistakes with the ‘banlieues’, which exacerbated social inequality, the French government are eager to make this expansion inclusive.

We knew that these stations had to function so well that they feel more pleasant and convenient than taking the car, and make people want to use them every day. You don't force transit onto people, they choose to use it because they want to. The way to do this, we believe, is to get the principles right from the beginning, even if that takes long negotiations with the various stakeholders over regulations and other obstacles.

One of these principles is getting people flow right.

“We hope these stations will play a role in reducing the differences between groups in society.”

—Daniel Jongtien, partner since 2017

We thought it should be easy to orient yourself by following daylight. As you go in, you see the light coming from the platforms, and you go towards that. On the way back, on the mezzanine level, you instinctively go towards the exits because that's where the light is streaming in.

Likewise, we designed the paths from the ticket barrier like funnels, with sober design details, to encourage people to move through, whereas the platforms are designed to be light, calm and peaceful so that people feel relaxed and at ease waiting for a while.

Finally, the design of these three stations and the viaduct that runs between them is intended to create a sense of cohesion and make them feel like an extension of Paris, though each station will be deliberately unique to give each a sense of place and identity.”

Metro Line 18 (in development), Paris

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A Daring Design Game

Goede Doelen Loterijen HQ, Amsterdam

“Leaving their beloved villas next to Amsterdam’s favourite park was a daunting prospect for the Goede Doelen Loterij (Charity Lotteries) staff. By organising co-creation workshops and by offering constant collaboration on the designs and plans, we managed to create a new office building where they will feel even more at home.

First, we held a creative workshop to discuss the staff’s wish list for the building. These wishes reflected the organisation’s core values: sustainable, courageous, fun, and sharing. They wanted the highest sustainable rating on the BREEAM scale and many of their requests centred around being eco-friendly: a green roof, solar panels, using greywater for the toilets.

Their courage and sense of fun became very evident with the design for the interior atrium.“We don’t want the typical atmosphere of an office building,” the chairman of the company said. That’s when we decided to abandon the usual design process and invite the staff to contribute their own ideas for their new interior. Their sketches of old Amsterdam canal facades will be echoed in the new atrium, that feels like a city square surrounded by houses.

“This was a process of co-creation; they knew what they wanted, we added our expertise so they could realise their dreams.”

–Saartje van der Made, partner since 2017

Lastly, sharing. The client wanted the office to be as open and transparent as possible: a public restaurant, an open foyer, and glass exterior walls, so neighbours can see exactly what’s going on inside. The elevated ground floor will even be lowered to street level to put the organisation ‘on the same level’ as people outside.

There, they will be shadowed under the new roof, cut out of aluminium in such a way that it filters light like leaves, creating an ‘indoor park’ that will hopefully make up for the park the staff are leaving behind.”

Goede Doelen Loterijen HQ, Amsterdam

Our next stop is Amsterdam Central Station.

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Architecture for society

In the run up to our 40th anniversary, Benthem Crouwel Architects introduces a reinforced team of seven partners. A great moment to offer a closer look at our work and the vision behind it.
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A Proud and Friendly Cloud

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A Daring Design Game

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Car-beating Comfort

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A Rooftop Gesture

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