Located in The Hague (Netherlands), the International Criminal Court (ICC) covers an area of 54,000 square meters and includes three courts as well as 1,200 work places. It was designed by Danish firm schmidt / hammer/ lassen architects, who won an international competition for the design of this landmark building. The design was no easy task, as the ICC had a number of key values it wished to see represented by the architects through built form. These values include transparency, fairness, trust, respect and democracy. A further design challenge was balancing security - as court deals with extremely sensitive issues - against the court’s key value of transparency.
The architect’s design response is a development comprising six connected building volumes, all with different heights and embedded into the natural surrounding landscape. The building volumes are predominately clad with a grid system into which widows and slanted panels are inserted, lending a degree of transparency symbolising ICC mandates such as trust and respect.
At the centre of the design is Court Tower, the tallest building and the heart of the premises, containing three courtrooms. Distinguished from the other volumes, the facade of this tower will gradually be covered in plants that will extend into the surrounding landscaped gardens.
Visual connections to the surrounding greenery as well as courtyard gardens are key elements to the design. The surrounding gardens symbolize international unity as gardens are an element common to all cultures.
Throughout the premises, Mosa Terra Maestricht tiles were used to enhance visual connections as the tiles were used both on the interior floors as well as outdoors. Mosa were able to to provide the tiles in an extra thick variety to be laid on sand for exterior use specifically, thus ensuring a seamless connection between the two realms. Furthermore, the large size of the tiles adds to the sense of spaciousness and serene, calm feeling.
When designing the new permanent premises of the International Criminal Court, the point of departure was to communicate trust, hope and – most importantly – faith in justice and fairness. The building should have the courage to be an ambassador for the credibility of the ICC. The project and its architecture should be impressive and grandiose but should always relate to humans and the human scale. It is important that a formal institution like the ICC does not constitute barriers for people. On the contrary, it must express the very essence of democratic architecture.
Located close to the North Sea the site is placed between the nature and the city. Connecting the dune landscape with the edge of the city has a striking potential. By designing a compact building with a small footprint, the landscape is returned to the city so that the open spaces, the sky and the horizon become an integrated part of the architectural composition.
Through the lightness and simplicity in the architectural design, the values of openness and transparency are communicated. The building is designed as a sculptural abstraction – a composition of 6 volumes, firmly anchored to the site and rising from the surrounding dune landscape.
The tallest of the volumes is the Court Tower that rises up as a green element. The architectural idea is to continue the cultivated parterre gardens from the ground floor level as a cladding on the Court Tower. The remaining volumes, the office towers, are draped in a tapestry grid, almost like embroidery. The office façade grid is designed with angle and cut-outs, which allows the light to reflect differently in an almost playful way.
On 12 November 2015, the International Criminal Court (ICC), designed by schmidt hammer lassen architects, was formally handed-over its new permanent premises in the Hague, Netherlands. ICC President Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi received a symbolic key from the Courtys construction consortium. The Court will move into its new 54,000 m2 home in December 2015.
“Completion of the ICC permanent premises is a testimony of the support of the International Community to the global fight against impunity. Giving the ICC permanent headquarters symbolises the trust of the States and their firm commitment to continue supporting a Court that is created to be permanent and that is determined to accomplish its mandate”, said ICC President Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi at the ceremony.
In 2010, schmidt hammer lassen architects won a prestigious architectural design competition for the new permanent premises of the ICC, teaming with landscape architects SLA, Royal Haskoning Nederland B.V. and Esbensen as consulting engineers and Bosch & Fjord for interior and art. The design was selected for its understanding of the concept of transparency. The design also shows how democratic values upon which the Danish tradition for architecture rests reflect in an international institution that is subject to some of the strictest security requirements in the world.
“The ICC is an international institution which, with its importance in our society, for many reasons needed permanent premises. To the victims, to their families, the public, and to the world, the ICC building must communicate respect, trust and hope. Therefore, this building is not anonymous; it has the courage to express the values and the credibility of the ICC,” said Bjarne Hammer, Co-Founding Partner and Creative Director of schmidt hammer lassen architects.
The building is designed as a sculptural abstraction, like a piece of land art, - a composition of six volumes, firmly anchored to the site and rising from the surrounding dune landscape. “It has been evident that connecting the dune landscape with the edge of the city had a striking potential. By designing a compact building with a small footprint on the old military site of the Alexander barracks, we are returning the landscape to the city,” Bjarne Hammer added.
The tallest of the volumes is the Court Tower. The architectural idea is to continue the cultivated parterre gardens from the ground floor level as a greenery cladding on the Court Tower. “Gardens have always existed as part of all cultures and all religions. With flowers and plants representing the over 120 ICC member countries, the parterre gardens will rise up as a green landmark and a symbol of unity, regardless of nationality and culture.” The remaining volumes, the office towers, are draped in a tapestry grid, almost like embroidery. The office façade grid is designed with angle and cut-outs, which allows the light to reflect differently in an almost playful way.
Safety and openness
In the design approach it has been paramount that the security measures, as much as possible, are an integrated part of the design. The public has easy and open access to the main entrance and the design of the landscape surrounding the building achieves a highly secure environment without the appearance of barbwire and high fences.
The new ICC headquarters is located at the edge of the Meijendel Dune Landscape, which is a protected area. One of the primary and most important aims of landscape architects SLA’s concept is to ‘reunite’ the site with this dune landscape. The primary idea has been to locate the complex as a cut in the landscape, establishing an interior that relates to the international collectivity of the ICC, and an exterior that entrenches the ICC to the local Dutch landscape and opens it to the public.
The new headquarters for the ICC is targeting a BREEAM Excellent certification. The complex is part of the local water-win area. Therefore strict local regulations applied for materials, their possible leaching and work during the construction period. Several sustainability measurements have been implemented into the design such as: a heat- and cold storage, which is the largest of its kind in the Netherlands, green roofs, water-saving taps and toilets, automatic daylight control of luminaires for all lighting in offices and biological cleaning of the mirror pond.
ICONIC HOUSE OF PEACE AND JUSTICE IN THE HAGUE'S DUNES
As safe as a bunker, but also open and transparent. Abstract and informal. Grand, but with a sense of human dimensions. The requirements for the International Criminal Court's new building were extremely complex and challenging, but Bjarne Hammer pulled it off. The architect of Denmark’s renowned agency Schmidt, Hammer, Lassen Architects designed an iconic building for the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The new complex does justice to victims of serious crimes, while also allowing prosecuted suspects to retain their humanity. The interior of the 56,000-quare-meter complex has an understated allure and makes no distinction between victims, criminals and staff. Hunter Douglas produced around 29,000 square meters of customised, slim, aluminium ceiling panels for this interior.
The new International Criminal Court (ICC) was officially opened on Tuesday 19th of April by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander. The Dutch monarch was accompanied by other dignitaries, such as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, and the Dutch Minister of Justice and Security. The stature of this delegation says a lot about the
importance of the International Criminal Court. The ICC employs more than 1,200 staff members and represents 124 member states. These nations make a joint effort in prosecuting those allegedly involved in war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
First and foremost, the institute has a practical function: to serve justice to the victims of such crimes and punish perpetrators. But the building's symbolic function is almost as important. The world needs an international house of justice and peace. That "house" has become an iconic building on a former military site in the dunes of The Hague.
Linking the city to nature
Architect Hammer deliberately chose a small 'footprint' for the building. 'Because we saw a lot of potential in the interface connecting the dune area and the edge of the city, we intentionally went for a compact design. This way we could restore part of the former military site to nature.' The building, which looks like it has been 'built into' the dunes, integrates ICC with its surrounding natural environment. In order to achieve this effect, a ‘bite’ was taken out of the dunes and in the gap now stands the six-building complex. It consists of five office buildings and the Court Tower, which rises up above the rest. The 'dug-in' effect of the building ensures extra protection and contrasts with the surroundings, but the location also gives visitors, victims and suspects a feeling of rest, trust and hope.
Making a statement
The inside of the ICC has a sophisticated finish and is anything but boring, while remaining crisp and functional. This is the result of deliberate choices, of course, says Hammer: 'If your de facto clients are 124 different countries, and each of them has its own culture and background, it is difficult, as an architect, to take a position. On top of that, all of the trials are broadcast live and the media and camera teams providing these broadcasts require a neutral background.'
For the ceiling, the Danish agency opted for slim aluminium Hunter Douglas panels. The panels, perforated and inlaid with acoustic mats, cover a total of 29,000 square-meters, spread out over offices, court rooms and public areas. The crisp, anthracite ceiling, according to Hammer, gives 'a strong design statement'. He calls it 'abstract but neutral' – which is one of the requirements laid down in the tender. The architect expresses what the ceiling means for the interior: 'It's an important element in the game of light and shadow that is played in the building. The ceiling enables people to find their way around the building in a natural, intuitive way.'
Balance in the interior
The smooth look and the expanse of the ceiling lend a fine balance to the interior, says Hammer. 'The ceiling connects spaces and creates a sense of sameness throughout the building. Because the same ceiling is suspended everywhere: where the suspects’ reside, where the lawyers work and in the office spaces.'
Aesthetics aspect, Hammer also had a practical reason for panelling the ceiling. 'It's an open ceiling, which gives an architect extra room to work with. For example, you can include the metres between the ceiling and the plenum space room when calculating air quality. An in the same space, you can neatly tuck away the air quality and fire safety installations.'
Remarkably, the rooms in the building can be partitioned randomly. That was one of the ICC's requirements. The ceiling installation was tailored to this requirement, says project leader John Balvert of Verwol interieurbouw in Opmeer, ther Netherlands. 'The ceiling panels are interchangeable, thanks to a specific solution we designed in collaboration with the client. Walls can be taken down or moved without re-drilling or dismantling the suspension construction. In each new setup, the panels can easily be aligned with the position of the new wall.'
The sustainable quality of aluminium was another important factor in making the choice. The Criminal Court's offices will be permanently lit with LED-lighting. For this purpose, 100,000 LED lamps have been integrated in the perforated panels, maintaining the ceiling's clean look.