donderdag 17 maart 2016

Open voor gerechtigheid

Voor Mosa sprak buro open met architect Denis Olette over het nieuwe gebouw van International Crime Court in Den Haag.

A design that has it all

Designing the new premises for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague (Netherlands) isn’t your average job. On the contrary, not only had the ICC a set of key values that it wanted taken into account, but the building also had to represent international cooperation and reflect the willingness of 123 countries to establish an independent court to try people accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. And if that wasn’t enough, there was also security. The ICC deals with very sensitive issues. It has to be secure and yet it also has to be transparent. Moreover, there was also the typical Dutch dune landscape to consider. But the international Danish firm schmidt / hammer / lassen architects managed to cover everything. They took on the challenge, were chosen out of a hundred other architect firms around the world in an international competition, and finally designed an incredibly beautiful landmark.

Rolling landscape
“We incorporated the wishes of the ICC into our architectural and landscape design in a lot of ways,” says Denis Olette, architect, ICC project director and director of schmidt / hammer / lassen architects in London. “First of all, we wanted to reunite the old site of former Dutch army barracks with the rolling dunes surrounding it. The six buildings, with different heights, are incorporated into this natural environment. The transparent centre is the Court Tower: the heart of the organisation. Here the surrounding greenery connects to the courtyard garden, symbolising unity. Secondly, we wanted to create a building that has a sculptural quality in the landscape - a work of art embedded in its environment, if you like. Taken as a whole, it has a very dynamic, powerful and pleasing presence.”
The ICC is a permanent court, and this new building emphasises this.
Unique, uniting tiles
“The Mosa tiles we used - the 216 V and 216 XT Terra Maestricht - also enabled us to enhance the connections that you see throughout the premises. We used the tiles on the ground floor inside as well as outdoors. The high quality, consistent colour and large size of the tiles (60 x 60 cm) create a serene, tranquil effect, but also strengthen the open character. Furthermore, we were impressed with Mosa’s commitment and customer-focus. They had to produce thick exterior tiles that could be laid on sand, without sacrificing aesthetics. We knew they could pull it of, because we’ve collaborated with Mosa on projects in the past and value their contribution.”
The key to success is getting around the table and talk.
Strong democratic values
“Projects like these are long, complex processes, and it’s important to collaborate effectively, preferably as soon as possible. When we learnt that we had won the competition, we were happy to hear that our design perfectly reflected the ICC’s criteria of transparency, fairness, trust, respect and democracy. I guess it could not have been otherwise, because these are also strong values in Danish architectural design and our firm’s philosophy. We recognised ourselves in the ICC’s briefing and vice versa. And it’s a very understandable design. It’s the result of a careful process of consultation, listening, making the client feel at ease, and being willing to adjust your design to the client’s requirements. It’s all about effective collaboration, and establishing mutual trust and respect. Of course, architectural design is a form of art, but, at the end of the day, it’s also about function and purpose for the people who use it. This is one of our strong selling points, if I may say so: the process of engagement with the end user. That is one element that should drive the design, in my opinion.”

Sunken gardens and sustainability
“It was a real challenge to design this building, knowing that so many nations have signed the Rome Statute. But we decided early on not to be specific regarding all these nationalities, cultures and religions. It’s just not possible for all of them to be reflected in an overall architectural design. You have to generalise, be more generic and dare to be atypical. So we took the idea of international unity, and the fact that gardens have always been part of all cultures, and designed sunken gardens that represent the geographical locations of ICC countries. These gardens feature specific plants, flowers and substrates with which people of different nationalities can identify. They remind them of home. For instance, the African garden has red sand. In the Asian garden we use gravel to recall the Zen gardens of Japan. And the Eastern European garden has lush vegetation.”

“We also decided to follow the BREEAM criteria in our design. The goal was not to so much to get the certificate as to incorporate as many sustainability features as possible. This was only logical given the natural environment surrounding the premises, and the specific landscaping. What’s more, the complex is located in a water catchment area and there are strict regulations governing the materials that can be used. So the offices have a hot and cold water system in the floors that corresponds to water production outside the site. There’s a heat exchanger that is actually the largest of its kind in the Netherlands. It’s quite unique. All of the lighting uses LED lamps. There are green roofs, water-saving taps and toilets. Rainwater is filtered and used in the building. And, of course, we used Mosa’s cradle-to-cradle tiles. Overall, we constantly paid infinite attention to sustainability.”
Safety is something that you cannot quantify, but which has a big influence on well-being.
Safe and sound
Security versus openness was another issue we had to tackle. It goes without saying that security is a major issue for the ICC, so we had to integrate such things as CCTV cameras and security gates into the premises. But we also had to take account of emotional feelings on safety. So we designed the physical measures so that they are not experienced as an obstacle. The building retains its transparency. That’s also the case with the surrounding landscape: there are no barriers. Anyone inside the building is in direct contact with the landscape. There is no feeling of confrontation for the visitor. In that respect, the layout of the building dictates how safe people feel.”

The ICC is here to stay
“The old building used to be a landmark, but unfortunately it was too small and not fit for the purpose, status and aims of today’s ICC. The new building - which measures 54,000 square meters, has up to 1,200 work places and three courts - incorporates all the current values that the ICC stands for and, I must say, I’m extremely proud of it,” says Denis Olette. He smiles modestly. “We handed over the keys last November (2015). It was the end of our involvement in this seven-year project. And it is - and has been - fantastic. It’s amazing to see premises like these evolve from paper to a built project. At the opening, I talked to several of the ICC employees and they told me how proud they are to work there. They now have a building that expresses their mission statement to the world, and that is the strong message that ICC is here to do what needs to be done.”

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