The Gelders Huis combines new build with the renovation of the provincial government building in Arnhem. The complex of buildings is prominently situated in the Markt district of Arnhem and forms the final piece of the urban design puzzle around the square. The monumental Huis der Provincie (Provincial House) was designed in the 1950s as a unique Gesamtkunstwerk that integrates architecture, interior, furniture, and applied art. Along with improving the urban situation, that idea formed a guiding principle for both the renovation and extension.
CONNECTIONS – The new volume blends seamlessly with the surrounding street pattern. A kink in the west façade makes space for a public pedestrian route between the new volume and the monument. Bridging over the route are four mirror-clad footbridges that connect the two buildings. The bridges align perfectly with the concrete grid of both the monument and the new volume, ensuring that the façade rhythm continues almost uninterrupted. The reflective surfaces blur the boundaries between building and bridge, old and new. A raised ground level around and among the buildings creates a fifth connection between both buildings, improves contact between inside and outside, and guides visitors directly to the monumental entrance gate.
TENSEGRITY – The open courtyard of the provincial house has been roofed over and transformed into an entrance hall. By developing a special, lightweight tensegrity roof structure with air cushions made of plastic (ETFE), the architects were able to create a transparent roof with limited structural impact on the existing building. The concentrically placed compression members are fitted with LEDs at their tips, and the sprinkler installation is hidden from view in the trusses so that nothing distracts from the clarity of the structure and space. The roof makes the building more energy efficient and creates a representative entrance hall, which can also be used for receptions and other events.
GESAMTKUNSTWERK – Characteristic motifs from the monument have been taken and given a contemporary twist. An example is the hourglass motif used throughout the old building, which reappears as a relief on the façade of the new volume, as a graphic pattern on glazed partitions, and as marking on steps. Conversely, a number of contemporary additions in blue steel, a material frequently deployed in the new volume, appear inside the provincial house, for example in the structure containing a staircase and reception desk inserted into the entrance hall, and in the wall finishes along the corridors. Old and new are thus fused into a single entity.