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Mecanoo renovates historic Delfland Water Authority with big galleries, skylights, more open spaces

Netherlands - Aug 9, 2018 - 04:35   3067 views

Mecanoo has renovated a historic Delfland Water Authority complex with more flexible spaces, big galleries, skylights and secret gardens to create efficient workspaces in a cohesive manner. 

Located on the Oude Delft in Netherlands, the Delfland Water Authority is a historical building and its monumental part was built in 1505 as a house for Jan de Huyter. 

The sandstone facade was unique for that time and it was one of the few buildings to survive the 1536 city fire. More than 100 years later, the house came into the hands of the Delfland Water Authority.

Mecanoo was commissioned to transform this historic building complex into a new workspace, as well as archive, restaurant, conference rooms and garden. The 8,800-square-metre program was coherently solved in a more fluid layout so that every part of redesigned spaces can be used by employees.


"Over time the Water Authority expanded to include several adjacent monumental buildings, and in 1975 a new building on the Phoenixstraat was added. In 2014, the Water Authority decided to revise its housing strategy. The most important task was to make what was once a fragmentary complex into a cohesive whole," said Mecanoo.

The studio's aim was to transform it into a pleasant, flexible working environment that reflects both the requirements of modern time and the identity of the Water Authority, while maintaining the special characteristics of the monumental elements.

To create connectivity, Mecanoo chose the theme "View of Delft" as the starting point for the design. First, all parts of the building were analyzed: what are the striking qualities and what are the defects? The studio created some openings at strategic locations to form a clear route throughout the building. 

The route also links special interior objects and see-throughs in the building, but also connects the inside and the outside with views to the characteristic turret, the surrounding monumental buildings, the Old Church, and the courtyard. 

"This helps visitors to orient themselves. Along part of the route, an exhibition was arranged in the form of an 'honorary gallery' with objects and gifts received by the Water Authority during the hundreds of years of its existence," said the firm.

To form spontaneous encounters within the building is the key design principle for the renovation. Mecanoo has restored all historic rooms and used unnoticeable technical installations in the rooms. Where building parts adjoin each other, a clear node has been created. Elements from different periods create beautiful contrasts. 

"This is clearly visible at the new glass entrance where a glass front has been placed in front of the original facade, creating a covered patio," explained the firm.

"The windows in the old facade have been replaced by open wooden frames. An oak walkway crosses the entrance area and forms the connection between two building parts. The striking round reception desk features the Delfland Water Authority logo."

The studio designed some graphics on the glass walls of the conference center which were designed by artist Silo and inspired by the enormous wealth of antique water maps belonging to the Water Authority. 

In cooperation with the Textielmuseum Tilburg, Silo also designed a tapestry, made of millions of water droplets. It is the eye-catcher of the central hall.

The architects also created a meeting garden for employees in order to experience in all seasons, the garden is also used as a water buffer.  The parking lot at Phoenixstraat has been transformed into an attractive square that leads to the entrance. 

The existing yellow pavers are laid in the original pattern, from which the round wind rose emerges beautifully. Vegetation is planted in a playful geometric pattern, intersected by walking paths. 

Here and there, private squares have been created where one can sit in the green. Where once was a busy loading and unloading area, now lays a welcoming oasis of peace.

Project facts

Programme: 8,800 m2 renovation and restoration of partly national heritage listed building complex with new working spaces, archive, restaurant, conference rooms and garden

Design: 2014-2015

Realisation: 2016-2017 

Client: Hoogheemraadschap van Delfland, Delft 

Project management: Heuvel-op, Uitgeest 

Architecture, interior and landscape: Mecanoo architecten, Delft 

Structural engineer: Zonneveld, Rotterdam 

M+E engineer: Nelissen, Eindhoven 

Acoustic, Building physics and Fire safety consultant: Peutz, Zoetermeer 

Cost consultant: Basalt bouwadvies bv, Nieuwegein

Artist: SILO, Den Haag 

Consultant: Draaijer & Partners, Utrecht 

Main contractor: Koninklijke Woudenberg, Ameide 

Installations: Unica bv, Rotterdam

All images © Mecanoo architecten

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