UNStudio Architecture design of Education Executive Agency & Tax offices in Groningen, Netherlands
A new, 92 meter tall complex of soft, undulating curves marks the skyline of Groningen. This asymmetric, aerodynamic construction is set amidst small, ancient woodland, sheltering rare and protected species. The project includes the design, construction and financing of two public institutions; the national tax offices and the student loan administration. The commission from the RGD (National Buildings Service) includes, besides the architecture, the management and building maintenance and care of facilities and services for a period of 20 years. Accommodating 2,500 workstations, parking facilities for 1,500 bicycles and 675 cars in an underground garage, the building will be surrounded by a large public city garden with pond and a multifunctional pavilion with commercial functions.
The architecture aims to present these institutions with a softer, more human and approachable profile. Tall buildings are generally associated with mid-twentieth century modernism. Their harsh, businesslike exteriors contain powerful, inaccessible-seeming strongholds. By contrast, the DUO and Tax offices deliberately cloak a commanding public institution in an organic, friendlier and more future-oriented form.
“We paid a great deal of attention to how people would move through the building. The office spaces are designed in such a way that they do not create simple linear corridors leading to dead ends, but instead each corridor has a route which introduces a kind of landscape into the building. You can take endless walks through the building, where there is a great deal of transparency, also towards the surrounding landscape.”
The governmental office complex is built as part of a far-reaching form of public-private partnership (DBFMO) that is designed to effectuate on a more efficient use of public funds. The design, construction, financing, managing and maintenance of the building was hosted by one consortium consisting of Strukton, Ballast Nedam and John Laing. This consortium won the competition for the project on the basis of a combination of esthetic, technical and financial criteria. UNStudio, as the architect of the project, collaborated with Lodewijk Baljon for the landscape design, Arup for the engineering and Studio Linse as the interior advisor.
The life-cycle approach of a DBFMO contract requires that all relevant experts (designers, lawyers, installation specialists, financial specialists, facility specialists) are involved from the start of the project in order to find the best, most cost effective and environmentally-friendly solutions for the continued use and maintenance of the building. This working methodology stimulates not only creative and innovative ideas, but facilitates a reduction of total costs over the entire contract period compared to the traditional means of contracting. In PPP projects contracts are not awarded to the lowest bidder, but to the party with most effective solutions providing the best value for money.
“In a PPP-construction you have to consider all the details concerning maintenance and the sustainable use of the building from the very early stages. It is a unique way to gather all the specialists and the end user around the table from the very outset of the project.”
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