NAALDWIJK – Known for its horticulture in greenhouses, the Westland in the Netherlands can welcome a new ‘greenhouse’ with Cepezed’s town hall. Institutional architecture has come a long way since the brutalist days of the Boston City Hall by Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles, as the Dutch town hall office is entirely glazed, emphasizing the democratic nature of the function.
The three-storey building is defined by a generic grid and organised by public consulting rooms, the restaurant, offices, and the historic archive with a subsequent reading room. Visitors are first welcomed by a large and inviting atrium that gives you a clear overview of the building’s program with a long-range visibility into it.
The building was designed with a high degree of flexibility with large column-free spaces and a certain modularity in its interior organisation with movable wall panels used for offices and meeting rooms. Circulation is key, where large spaces are dedicated to the flow of the staff and visitors. Prominently placed open staircases stimulate such movement. Pushing the metaphor of the nurturing greenhouse, the interior design uses light-green tones and soft timber elements.
A particular moment in the building that sums up the Westland allure is when visitors face a ‘floating’ room housing the council functions with higher ceilings, curved edges and wooden slats. Light, transparent, and curvy, the architects describe is as a ‘furniture-like construction.’ Placed in the middle of the atrium, the degree of openness of the council is now translated into its architecture.
Throughout the building, daylight is flooding. Although it may seem daunting to have a habitable greenhouse with spaces that are subject to this much light and presumably heat, sustainability was key to the design of the town hall. Designed as a carbon neutral building, it uses triple glazing, LED lighting and a smart ventilation system according to building use. Thermal pv panels are also used to compensate for daily energy use.