Recently the winner was announced of the International Design Competition for a Center for Contemporary Art, organized by the Kunstfort at Vijfhuizen in December 2009.
The competition for the reuse of the historic military engineers barrack “Genieloods” was won by a team consiting of practices CoOB (Collaboration Office Jarrik Ouburg – Paulien Bremmer Architects) and CC-studio.
The military barrack is located on the premises of the fortress and art centre Kunstfort at Vijfhuizen in The Netherlands. The fortress is part of the Defence Line of Amsterdam, a complex of fortresses, dikes, locks and other structures in a large circle around the capital and inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The Genieloods dates from 1896. The steel frame of the barrack is clad with one single layer of corrugated iron sheets. This results in an indoor climate that is unsuitable for expositions: in summer it is extremely hot and in winter very cold.
Due to the fact that any alteration to a building with monumental status has to be reversible, the architects propose to clad the interior of the barrack with curtains made of light weight space blankets. The reflecting qualities of this NASA-developed material will keep the heat out in summer and in winter keep the warmth produced by floor heating in. During in between seasons when the indoor climate is comfortable, the curtains will be mechanically rolled-up revealing the original interior of the barrack again.
The mirroring qualities of the material will transform the narrow barrack into an optically infinite space, making the art visible from the front, back and top. Natural light will be reflected in countless ways creating good lighting conditions to exhibit art.
The new exhibition space will be in sharp contrast with the dark exhibition spaces in the bunkers of the fortress itself.
Comments by the jury: Modest on the outside yet ingenious on the inside, the design intrigued the jury by reconciling the two extremes that are contained in “Genie”, the Dutch word for military engineer: Ge-nie (noun): 1.army unit responsible for all military engineering 2.extraordinary talent. The design shows on one hand great care toward the military heritage of the barrack. The simplicity of the design exposes the original construction in a bold and aesthetic way, and enhances the functional characteristics of the building. On the other hand, the winning team of architects exceeds the competition brief by creating an interior decor that is hardly inferior to Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors and is an intelligent, advancing, environmentally friendly, sustainable and affordable design and climate management.