Droogbak building in Amsterdam a perfect fusion of past and present
A work that involved a diverse team, which lasted more than 5 years, to relaunch the Droogbak, a neo-Renaissance building in the center of Amsterdam. Designed in 1884 as the headquarters of the Hollandse IJzeren Spoorweg Maatschappij (Dutch Railway Company), the building has had several users and already underwent a major restoration twenty years ago.
As the task force explains in its joint press release, the intervention aims to “respectfully adapting the building to meet the needs of the contemporary working environment; not only through physical interventions, for example by modernizing the indoor climate and acoustics, but above all by enabling a new way of working, in which encounters informal and social interaction take center stage.”
The central courtyard of Droogbak having been covered and transformed into a library during the previous restoration, the architects of the KCAP workshop decided to reactivate this space. The bright and glazed atrium was therefore designed as a crucial node in the new layout of the building, as a dynamic and lively place for meeting, interaction and exchange. The addition of new stairs that provide access to the upper floors and the restaurant in the basement play an important role in this. The building’s bay windows and balconies, facing inwards, reinforce the visual relationships between the floors and with the atrium. “The atrium is the heart of Droogbak and serves as a ‘starting point’ for the transformation concept, both literally and figuratively. It offers a new dynamic and a new way of working, respecting the historic architecture”, Explain Irma van Oortpartner at KCAP. “A perfect fusion of past and present”.
In this sense, the creation of a sculptural spiral staircase anodized aluminum serves as a visual focal point within the atrium, a built addition that promotes social interaction among users of this iconic building housing the offices of law firm Clifford Chance. This staircase, which leads to the second floor, was in fact designed as a ideal place for informal meetings, while connecting a series of mini-hubs located on the interior facade of the building. These mini-hubs are essentially small extensions of the rooms with glass sky boxes that overlook the atrium. An architectural and structural gesture which, on the one hand, preserves the values of the historic and protected monument, while on the other hand transforming the existing building into a contemporary office, in line with the needs of users: more light, more ‘interaction.
In this direction, Fokkema & Partners’ the interior design offers a playful interpretation of the historic features of the building, creating a feeling of space, openness and intimacy. In addition, visual references to the Neo-Renaissance period, combined with a pronounced color palette, help transform the period rooms, with their original details, into a modern office environment. The top floor, with its original wooden rafters, is a real gem, having been cleared of partitions and organized into different “living areas”. The opening of this space reveals even more the quality of the monument, creating a panoramic view of the city. “Droogbak’s new interior offers a surprisingly contemporary user experience; an experience that has its roots in majestic architecture, but also offers new perspectives. Maximum effect has been achieved with minimum impact on the monumental interior”,explains Laura Atsma, partner at Fokkema & Partners.
Project: KCAP, ABT (architecture), Fokkema & Partners (interior design)
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Images: Bram Vreugdenhil