Photographer and filmmaker Anton Corbijn invited BOS ALKEMADE Architects in the autumn of 2011 to create a studio for him in the Netherlands. This studio needed to be integrated in an ancient city coach house and meet a complex programme of requirements. Separate spaces were to be created for photography, the processing of films, the production of graphic art and the safekeeping of photography archives. An overarching prerequisite was the ability to take photographs and shoot film in natural daylight in the spaces assigned for that. There was also a requirement for an open air space within the building and a loading area in front that could handle without problems the large props and other materials the artist would use inside.
The coach house was deep but narrow, and did not have the required ceiling height at ground level. To remedy this, the first floor was raised partially. The roof and the supporting walls on the first floor were removed to create the in-building open-air space or patio and make daylight available to the other work spaces. A wide strip of glass in the floor of the patio allowed natural daylight to enter the photo studio below. Skylights were added on the top floor. The remaining specified workspaces were arranged among the various levels. A new staircase provided the link between them and also accommodated other utilities in the programme. Finally, the facade and entry to the building were remodelled to match its new function.
The staircase with integrated utilities has a forceful and monumental aspect as it meanders between all floors. Strategically placed light shafts create a beautifully mystic light inside. It is clad both inside and outside with laminated wooden slats that are treated with a semi-transparent dye of a purple-black colour, which amplifies the autonomous character of this architectural intervention. The floors in the three workspaces are each treated differently to give them with their own separate character. The photo studio at ground level has a raw concrete finish, the space above is a white screed and the workplace in the attic a floor of crosscut French oak. On all floors, walls have remained untouched in part. The old traces of construction and usage yield a rich patina and contrast vividly with the stark and modern finish in other areas. In particular in the photo studio they offer a powerful backdrop to the artist.
The architectural process has reshaped the characteristic building but has also revealed its hidden potential. The minimalistic detailing, the sculptural intervention and the access to daylight all amplify each other most powerfully.