MVRDV Is Renovating Herman Hertzberger's Classic Office Building

One of the most interesting firms is adapting one of the most important office buildings.

aerial view of Centraal
Eerial view of Centraal.

Certitudo Capital

When Herman Hertzberger's Centraal Beheer offices in Apeldoorn, Netherlands opened in 1972, it changed the way many thought about offices. I was in architecture school at the time and it changed the way we arranged our desks.

The offices was built out of 9-meter (30-foot) square boxes overlooking skylit internal streets, with everything made out of concrete masonry and glass block. When I built my own home office a few years ago, I made it out of exposed block thinking it might look like Apeldoorn. (It doesn't; it looks like a basement.)

In the 2011 video, Hertzberger explained how people never wanted to leave. It was usual for people to go home for lunch with their families but the food and the environment, as well as the social relationships that the building promoted, kept them there.

But times change, and the disused building was sold in 2015 to a real estate developer Certitudo Capital, with a plan to turn it and the land around it into residential uses. They hired Dutch firm MVRDV to work with Hertzberger on the project.

MVRDV wrote:

"MVRDV developed an area vision which extends the structuralist principles of the building throughout the residential area. The axes of the central streets within the building will not only be a place for Apeldoorners to meet, they will also become a part of the most important routes through the area, better connecting the building with the city and the station and reinforcing Hertzberger’s original design vision."
Looking up from atrium

Apdency / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The building also inspired MVRDV's founding partner Winy Maas.

“It's a super cool assignment. Herman Hertzberger is an important role model for me. When I was studying at the Delft University of Technology, he was one of my professors, along with Aldo van Eyck and Rem Koolhaas—a fine trio. I worked with him twice on InDeSem, the International Design Seminar he organised. His social agenda makes him an inspiring architect to me, and I feel a kinship with him; just as Herman launched a totally new office landscape in the early seventies, MVRDV did the same in the early nineties with the Villa VPRO. We toured the client through the Central Beheer building and it opened their minds; it became an inspiration for our own work. We will certainly retain it as the basis for the transformation.”

detail of interior
Detail of interior.

Aptdency / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Given the design of the original building was one of the first to have internal streets to encourage social interaction, it will be interesting to see how it is transformed. MVRDV explained:

"Just as structuralism is often characterized by the repetition of small units, the structure of Centraal Beheer will be continued in the new neighbourhood and the new landscape. The design of the new buildings will be based on the 9-meter grid of the existing building, but built in wood to distinguish them from the original parts of the design. The old building will be revived with new programmes and architectural elements, fulfilling the structuralist principles that it was originally built upon. The landscape will also have a clear pattern based on the grid, within which a 'wilder' infill with trees, grasses, water, and play and sports facilities can be incorporated."

Atrium details

Apdency / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

In North America, it seems that developers have no problem knocking down famous office buildings by important architects, simply saying that work and offices have changed or that they are not "green" enough; look at what happened with Paul Rudolph's amazing Burroughs Wellcome headquarters from the same year as Hertzberger's Centraal Beheer. The former was declared "functionally obsolete" while the latter will be creatively repurposed—once again we can learn from the Dutch.

See more images of the building on Hertzberger's site and the classic Willem Diepraam black and white photos on the Certitudo Capital site. There is also a book about it by Boon Yih Thing on issuu.

View Article Sources
  1. Lomholt, Isabelle. "Centraal Beheer Building in Apeldoorn." e-architect, 16 Jun 2022.