21/04 2020

Uncovering layers of history

Working on existing heritage with care and respect, and treating the historical context in its broadest form, is a central theme in KAAN Architecten's thinking on architecture.

Over the last 20 years, the office has designed more than 40 projects related to renovation and restoration of built heritage. Whether it is an interior renovation such as De Bank, the office’s new headquarters in Rotterdam, or the addition of a new structure as in Erasmus MC Education Centre, the guiding principles are the same.

© Simone Bossi

Complex interventions on buildings of different periods must always present a clear hierarchy between the old and the new. The contemporary should not override the existing, but nevertheless ensure a comparable dignity, highlighting the monumental and the original. In this way, the new provides knowledge of the past.

© Bart Gosselin

The Education Center is part of the Rotterdam academic hospital Erasmus MC, originally designed in 1965 by Arie Hagoort (OD205) in collaboration with Jean Prouvé. Following the essence of the original design, the second floor has been reintroduced as the main floor and entrance of the complex. Since its completion in 2013, the new building has merged all medical student programmes within the education square with a pattern of study islands spanned by a large, glazed roof structure. The flexibility of the column-free space allows it to admit different functions. As such, the Education Centre has recently been transformed into a Dutch national coordination centre for corona patient distribution.

© Luuk Kramer

Among such projects is also Central Post in Rotterdam which has been was transformed into a contemporary and multifunctional office building. Due to the modernization of the postal process, the building fell into disuse. Through exterior restoration and transformation of the interior, 90% increase in floor area was achieved and the building was granted a Class A Energy Label. It is currently one of the five most sustainable buildings in the Netherlands. Last year it has also been categorized as a national monument by the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency.

© Karin Borghouts

Meanwhile, B30 a closed hierarchical building in The Hague, has been transformed into a contemporary and state-of-the-art working environment through a clear spatial configuration and additive design. Originally designed in 1917 as a ministry building, B30 is now an imposing structure with a distinct architectural character and is a Grade 1 listed building in the Netherlands.

More recently, the office has been commissioned to restore, renovate and extend two highly regarded museums – Paleis Het Loo in Apeldoorn and Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Both projects aim to improve and expand the visitor experience as well as highlight the grandeur of the existing institutions. With extensive photo reports from the construction sites, KAAN Architecten brings continuous coverage of updates on both projects – find the most recent ones here and here.

© Sebastian van Damme

© Karin Borghouts