Ministry of Defence, The Hague, Netherlands
Sander Architecten Amsterdam

The Ministry of Defense is located in various buildings in The Hague, on “Het Plein”, including an imposing 18th century listed building.

In the recently completed renovation, one of the most important interventions, is the concrete roof that covers the inner courtyards between four buildings.

The concrete structure with pyramidal roof-lights in a composite material is situated between the ground and first floors, so that the upper floors enjoy normal daylight and natural ventilation. The space under the 2000 m2 roof is used as an entrance zone, conference centre and fitness area.

In designing the roof, Ellen Sander was inspired by the theme of defence to create a roof resembling a camouflage net. Unlike many recent examples of glass roofing over internal courtyards, she did not try to achieve the lightest, most transparent solution. On the contrary, she searched for a conspicuous, sculptural form, both robust and subtle, with a shape that unifies the different buildings it connects.

The positioning of the organically shaped, prefabricated columns, each topped by four beam supports, arose seemingly arbitrarily. The columns, placed as if trees in a wood, came about through the interplay of variation and calculation leading to optimum daylight admission and complete elegance. The beam grid between the crowns was poured in situ with a high-grade self-compacting concrete, in highly accurate polyester formwork. In order to pour the beams invisibly onto the crowns the polyester formwork was built up as a single whole, with the prefab columns being placed through the openings from above.

After removal of the formwork the concrete surface was primed and painted matte white with an elastic coating resulting in a surprisingly austere, yet soft character. This exceptional light and tactility within such a historical building, gives the user a continuous changing experience.

Completion: December 2011

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