Innovative engineering restores unity for MOD in Utrecht
Sander Architecten was responsible for a renovation of the Ministry of Defence, which consists of an amalgam of buildings dating from different periods, 45000 sq m in total. Architect Ellen Sander was inspired by the theme of defence to create a roof like a camouflage net which unifies the different types of buildings that it connects.
The inner courtyards between four buildings have been roofed over as part of a completely new arrangement of the complex. By making use of the basement and attic floors as well, an efficiently operating complex was created that functions as a state of the Art Ministry. The glass roof is situated between the ground and first floors, so that the upper floors enjoy normal daylight and natural ventilation.
The space under the 2000 sq m roof is used for a variety of service functions, such as an entrance zone, conference centre, meeting space and fitness area. From here new staircases and lifts provide clear interior circulation. The supporting prefabricated columns appear to be arbitrarily distributed, like trees in a wood, but several design sessions were held to optimise the admission of daylight and the elegance of the roof. Each column has a crown with four beam supports; the beam grid is poured in situ. Square cupolas are built on top of the concrete construction; cross-shaped ribs made of polyester composite, four triangular glass panels rest in them. Everything about the roof is accurately detailed with the aid of computer-aided models and calculations. Manufacturers and advisers were involved from the very beginning of the design process to ensure a truly integral development approach.