LEEUWARDEN – 'We take pride in creating buildings that delight our clients and provide their users with the perfect environment for work, education, living, leisure and accommodation,' explains Chris De Weijer, co-founder of Delft-based DP6 architectuurstudio. The firm's recently completed project Neushoorn takes on a more rough and ready approach than their usual refined aesthetic – with the whole scheme centred around adaptive reuse. De Weijer gives us an exclusive insight into the project's development and its dynamic end result.
Can you explain to us the building's functionality?
CHRIS DE WEIJER: Neushoorn in Leeuwarden is a popular music venue and a school, an all-in-one building. It accommodates the eponymous pop music venue plus café called Neushoorn as well as the Friesland College's creative education branch, D'Drive.
The site has multiple programmes, how did you integrate these effectively?
At the beginning of the design project, the client wasn't sure yet whether they wanted one or two buildings. We immediately prompted to go for one building for both a school and music venue. The logistics were much easier and it gives a nice dynamic to have both functions in one building.
What was special about the existing context and how did this influence the design?
The new building is located at the corner of the old Ruiterskwartier and the Haniasteeg in the historic centre of Leeuwarden. The design builds upon the original small-scale urban morphology with its winding streets and lanes. We really wanted to preserve the old buildings and the atmosphere of the existing lanes while at the same time turning them into something new. Most of the main building at the corner of the Haniasteeg, Ruiterskwartier 41, was preserved. A new part was added next to the existing building, creating a 'New Lane' that separates and connects the two.
Why did you decide to reuse materials in the design?
The future users explicitly asked for a building that wasn’t neat but instead rough. We liked the existing brickwork very much. As architects we also thought this would better fit with the function of the building as school and music venue. We decided to reuse the bricks of the demolished buildings, which also makes the new building fit better with its historic surroundings.
How has this reuse influenced the final aesthetic?
As all the bits and pieces of the reused bricks varied in size, there was no way we could end up with a smooth finish. The bare brickwork gives the façade a unique, not too clean look. The building looks a bit unfinished, challenging users to add their own dynamic, making it a very vivid building.
How did you succinctly connect the different functions of the building?
The ground floor of the preserved building, Ruiterskwartier 41, accommodates the joint entrance lobby plus a foyer and cloakroom. The stairs leading from the entrance lobby to the D'Drive teaching facilities and the Neushoorn offices are covered by a glass roof that allows daylight to penetrate all the way into the building. This intermediate zone with the foyer and the study landscape establishes a clear functional link and at the same time makes for short routes to the theatres, studios, changing rooms, teaching facilities and offices. There is a natural flow between the music venue and the school.
The concert venues themselves are located at the rear of the building so the façades could be kept transparent to allow passers-by to see straight into the building and observe the hustle and bustle inside. The special thing about this venue is that it is also in use during the day. We wanted to make these dynamics visible, which is why the ground floor façade is backed by the pop café and the first floor features a dance and drama studio presented as a glass box.
Being a music venue, acoustic awareness is essential. How was this considered in the scheme?
The acoustics can make or break a music venue. A good sound is all that matters to users of a music stage, which is why the sound production functions of the building have been designed as free-standing boxes that maximise sound insulation. Acoustics also played a major role in the choice of walls. An angled wall forms a theme within the building, while the wall next to the main staircase doubles as an acoustic panel specially designed by DP6.
How has the building been received by the public?
Artists, audience members and students alike love the new building. The boss of Neushoorn stated: ‘The design has been kept a bit rough around the edges, and that works really well. Every night is party night, and the building oozes energy during the day as well.’
Photos courtesy of Kristian Hoekman