Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Bloemhof in Groningen, The Netherlands by Architectenbureau Marlies Rohmer
March 27th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
The Intense City including 45 Homes and Commercial Space in Groningen
The former water supply company site on Bloemsingel is part of the City of Groningen’s housing construction campaign The Intense City. This building festival covers multiple sites in the city centre, whose infill will enrich the diversity of functions. One theme of the festival is “parochial space”, a semi-public space inside an urban block. The location as a whole is typified by the adjacent electricity substation which is listed as an architectural monument, and the ample public green space on the banks of the Ooster Hamrikkanaal (canal).
Connection from square to courtyard
The building is separated from the historical electricity substation by a small square of open space. This has several advantages: the listed building remains intact, the square presents a buffer against electromagnetic radiation from the substation, and it subtly connects the semi-public internal courtyard with the public domain of Bloemsingel. The square also accords with the permeability for pedestrians of the adjacent CIBOGA Site.
Groningen is the “youngest” city in the Netherlands with 50,000 under 25s out of a total population of 187,000. The designated uses respond to this market with a programme of compact dwellings for young people and starters. The collective character that goes along with this is highly consistent with the urban design requirement for parochial space. It gives rise to an intimate meeting place at a crucial location in the city. The ground floor is dedicated to commercial space, resulting in a lively plinth to the building.
Sustainability is in part due to the flexibility of a building, being a building that is suitable for varying purposes, that has a universal floor plan and a durable shell. A generic structure gives room for change. The generic shells, with their column grid and ample, universal floor height are capable of accommodating living, working and recreation. It is not only the changeable aspect that is important for sustainable building, however, but also what endures. The enduring structure forms the framework, the shell. That stands for spatial character, or oversizing, and constitutes the domain of architecture.
The space within the framework is generic, undefined, and can be filled in according to the wishes of the time. The shell is generic in its use but it is at the same time explicit and specific in its visible form, so that it possesses a lasting urban identity. In the case of the Bloemensingel project, a grid of columns is spaced at an interval of 8.10 metres provides flexibility at ground floor level. The dwellings on the floors above that share the same generous bay size of 8.10 metres, supporting a flexible layout.
Richness and abundance
In this project, sustainability is realized by application of the principle of “richness and abundance”. In the past, manpower was cheap and materials were relatively expensive; building were built to last “for ever” and were splendidly decorated and detailed with high craftsmanship, often using very durable materials such as hardwood. Now the reverse is true. Using industrial and less labour-intensive techniques, we try to reinstate that rich feeling of the past in a contemporary way. The facade-filling brickwork elements with patterned bonds and relief were therefore prefabricated for this project. This procedure yielded a “rich” facade for a relatively low budget. The industrial prefabrication of custom building components also has advantages for energy efficiency. Prefabrication is less energy-intensive and the transportation of ready assembled components to the building site means less building waste will be produced there. This cuts the energy consumed for the processing and transportation of waste materials.
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