This town hall building is exceptionally sustainable and extremely energy efficient integrated into the landscape of the Achterhoek in the Netherlands.
On January 1, 2005, five small municipalities in the Achterhoek (Gelderland) merged and became the single local municipality Bronckhorst. This brings together around forty villages and hamlets to form one of the largest rural municipalities in the Netherlands with almost 40,000 residents. Atelier PRO designed a town hall for this municipality. The building convincingly and elegantly symbolises the new administrative unit. The unique surroundings of the Gelderland landscape provided inspiration for crystallisation of the form.
Achterhoek has a slightly sloping landscape. Brooks run into the Oude river and Gelderse IJssel. The views are framed by clusters of trees and hedges. The agrarian plots are angular and proceed in series of straight lines at angles to each another. The design of the town hall is a graceful reaction to the surroundings. The civil servants work here, the council make its decisions here, and the citizens are served here – all in the clearest and most transparent possible way!
The two office wings project slightly outwards and have been placed next to each other on a wedge-shaped site between the Elderinkweg and a brook near the Rondweg that runs past the village of Hengelo. The wings are different heights and have gently sloping roofs. Openings have been introduced in both inner sides at the middle of the wings: a high one for the council chamber, a low one for the public counters. Passers-by on the Rondweg see the large window of the council chamber, while vice versa the councillors have a view of the church spire of Hengelo, greenery and farms. The central corridor has skylights that allow sunlight to illuminate the yellow-white brick walls and the wooden floor.
Bronckhorst has been given a town hall with an extremely low energy consumption. Applying the principles of passive building design has made it possible to achieve an EPQ of 0.36. This means its energy consumption is only 36 per cent of what is permitted in Dutch building regulations. As far as we are aware, this has never before been achieved in the Netherlands. The principles of passive building were applied with common sense. The ventilation is guided by CO2-monitoring and never drops below one-third of the minimum. The building has the highest possible Green Calc A+ Label. The shutters around the building are an eloquent example of intelligent application of the principles of passive building. They are intended to keep an excess of solar warmth outside to prevent the building from overheating in the daytime. At night, or when the movement of people is not detected, the shutters can close to retain warmth inside the building. The 280 insulating shutters were decorated with a relief by the artist Jaap Drupsteen. For the forty villages and hamlets, Bronckhorst Town Hall has become a calm, reticent place that occupies a worthy position in the scenic landscape of the Achterhoek.
Atelier PRO envisaged a symbiotic relation between the interior, exterior and its surroundings, the scale of the three must reinforce each other. A building is not an introverted object in the landscape or the city, and an interior is not an after thought, but an integral part of the design. The interior therefore also exudes the atmosphere of the building and the surroundings. The interaction between interior and exterior are manipulated subtly to achieve the cohesion of mood and character.
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