Monday 15 Aug 2011


Award banner

An historic wooden tobacco storehouse in Amerongen has been rescued from collapse by giving it a new use. Recently, the restored building opened its doors to the public as an information centre for two nature reserves (National Park Utrechtse Heuvelrug and Het Utrechts Landschap). VASD designed a solution that brings past and present together in a solid partnership.

Fifty years ago this storehouse was still filled with tobacco leaves. Now you can see exhibitions, find out about the surroundings, enjoy a cup of coffee or embark on a hike here. Once again, tobacco leaves are drying in the rafters, because the monument's origins remain ingrained in the architecture. Dutch foundation Het Utrechts Landschap commissioned VASD to design a modern visitors' centre inside this historic tobacco storehouse. The challenge was to design a new function for the listed national monument, without losing touch with its history. The answer was found in a transparent rectangular cube that fits inside the frame of the original structure.

Old and new
How do you create an appealing visitors' centre inside a dark, draughty storehouse with a listed status that does not allow changes such as new windows? While the enormous wooden building was carefully being restored, Anne van Abkoude and Branko Vlamings tackled the design of its new function. By adding a transparent cube of 125 m2, a new world is created inside that heightens the aged atmosphere of its predecessor. White plaster - the allotted area for information, photos and art - is alternated with giant windows in unexpected places. These offer views of the rustic wooden exterior. Lighting the roof from below highlights the way the building is structured. The walkway between the original exterior and the new space creates a tangible transition from old to new.

Entrance sign
On the outside, only one change is visible; it acts as a signal, immediately telling you that this is more than an old tobacco storehouse. In the original doorway, a new, brick-red passageway has been made, marking the entrance to the visitors' centre. Two large doors with a central pivot embrace the entrance at a 90% angle and can be entirely expanded. This allows for extra daylight and also creates a prominent ‘signpost' for passersby.