Enschede, Netherlands | View Map
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RAU as Architects

De Zuiderval in Enschede – the southern approach road from the A35 motorway direct to the town centre – designed as a prominent avenue with European appeal. The head office of the housing association ‘De Woonplaats’ opens a row of location-defining façades.

De Zuiderval approach road: separated lanes, bus and bicycle lanes run, following a former railway line, from the A35 motorway directly to the centre of Enschede. The industrial buildings have gone, and a swathe of demolition has made way for a European avenue. Following various mergers, the housing association ‘de Woonplaats’ currently manages some 20,000 homes, mainly in Enschede and de Achterhoek region. Living and care in all senses: the physical wellbeing of the residents, but also special attention to the socially disadvantaged and the general living environment. Urban renewal, neighbourhood development, innovative building. Taking responsibility, showing initiative, establishing quality – and, just as importantly, listening, supporting and working together.

In harmony with the desired prestigious style of de Zuiderval, the 9-storey building features aluminium and glass and stands as an enduring image of quality and transparency. Directly behind the front, the various floors move in a flowing spiral that arches over the mature trees and visiting customers alike. The avenue – a grand route direct to the town centre. Past the prominent faces of the pillars of the community. Slowly changing to the houses of residents. After a long period of economic and social decline, Enschede is redefining itself: from the edge of the Netherlands into a European region. Housing association ‘De Woonplaats’ is showing a similar people and future-oriented profile. Seven office floors that can be freely partitioned – due to the spiral-shaped construction of the building on three sides and the large staircase, each floor can be designed and partitioned individually. In the middle there are two shafts: on one side the lifts, on the opposite side the groups of toilets and the internal staircase. Carried by a ground floor with a large housing information centre. On the top floor, there are secondary rooms and a canteen giving free views to the south. To the west, the facade is straight and upright, in the urban line. The twisting movement behind creates the building’s own wedge-shaped access area, over which the floors increasingly arch as they move higher. Straight, leaning and fanning out – no view of these facades is the same. The stairs wind round three sides in the surface of the walls. The employees meet each other and the world in this fully transparent connection.

The visual quality plan provides for a facade that is ‘light in colour and highly transparent’, whereas the programme of requirements sets a maximum of transparent surfaces of 30%. This apparent contradiction is resolved by using a fully glazed wall with opening windows coloured according to a fixed scheme, with a layer of light horizontal aluminium blinds running along the front. The blinds are specially designed for the location: they keep out the sun and let as much light in as possible.

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