The Gelders Huis project combines new-build with the renovation of the provincial government building in Arnhem. Prominently situated in the town center, the building complex forms the final piece of the urban design puzzle around the market square. The monumental Provincial House was designed in the 1950s by Jo Vegter as a unique Gesamtkunstwerk, integrating architecture, interior, furniture and applied art. This concept also formed a guiding principle for the renovation and extension, along with improving the overall urban situation. The House of Province won the Best Building of the Year 2018 by the Royal Institute of Dutch Architects (BNA). The jury praised the project: “It is not only a stimulating environment; it is also an iconic building that contributes to the quality of life in the city and – as the name implies – it provides a home base and a meeting place for the people.”
The new building blends seamlessly with the surrounding street pattern. A kink in the west façade makes space for a public pedestrian route between the new building and the monument. Four mirror-clad footbridges connect the two buildings internally. The bridges align perfectly with the exterior concrete grid of both the monument and the new volume, ensuring the façade rhythm continues uninterrupted. The reflective surfaces blur the boundaries between building and bridge, old and new. A raised ground level around the buildings creates a fifth connection between them, improving the relationship between interior and exterior and guiding visitors directly to the monumental entrance gate.
Roofing the open courtyard of the provincial house transformed the space into a monumental entrance hall. By developing a special, lightweight tensegral roof structure using plastic (ETFE) air cushions, the architects were able to create a transparent roof with limited structural impact on the existing building. The concentrically placed compression elements 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 improves the energy efficiency of the building whilst also creating a representative entrance hall for receptions and other events.
Original characteristic motifs from the monument have been given a contemporary twist. One example is the hourglass motif used throughout the old building, which reappears as a relief on the façade of the new building, 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 building, also appear inside the provincial house. For example, in the staircase structure with integrated reception desk in the entrance hall, and in the wall finishes along the corridors. Old and new are thus fused into a single entity.