The Open Space concept

The open space concept entails the combination of a variety of office types, functions, different materials, and so forth, integrated into one compact building without any physical separations (Fig. 8.2a to 8.4b). Transparency of the building as a whole, aimed at integrating it with its environment, is an important aspect of the open space concept. (For an extensive description, see Wennekes (1997).

Obviously, the following key issues would have to be resolved for the realisation of this concept (Roelofs, 2001):

• First, there is the issue of fire protection and escape routes. Once ignited, a fire could spread through the building very quickly. Corridors with fire doors would clearly be in conflict with the open space concept.

• Second, the daylight distribution in the building constituted a serious problem. The daylight in some working locations would not meet the prevailing regulations for daylight at the working place at all.

• Third, certain areas would have to be protected against too much sunlight.

• Fourth, the installations for ventilation and heating would have to be designed in such a way that all the connected open spaces would be properly ventilated and heated.

• Finally, noise hindrance and acoustics are critical in such an open, connected space. A broadcasting company is quite different from a software development firm where people are quiet behind their computer screens. A lot of verbal communications and telephone conversations are inherent to the mission of a broadcasting organisation such as VPRO.

Since straightforward, standard approaches for these issues would soon result in severe clashes with the open space concept, specific design solutions had to be invented. This meant less standardisation and more openness for new concepts (Aspect 10).

(a) A variety of office types was provided

(b) Combinations of various office types in one building


(c) Floorspace at six layers of the building

(d) Vides with view to the outside Figure 8.2 Elements of the open space concept I

(a) Geological profile
(b) Various functions combined in one compact building
(c) Structural design (South side)
(d) Section West Figure 8.3 Elements of the open space concept II
(a) Section East
(b) 3D representation of floor composition Figure 8.4 Elements of the open space concept III

(a) Sprinkler plan for 2nd layer (b) Escape routes for 2nd layer

Figure 8.5 Fire protection plans

(a) Sprinkler plan for 2nd layer (b) Escape routes for 2nd layer

Figure 8.5 Fire protection plans

The first four key issues were actually addressed in the spirit of PII practices, and with success. Specialists were challenged to produce innovative solutions that would leave the architectural concept intact. They applied PII practices by means of adjusting of goals when circumstances changed, by means of conflict resolution based on synthesis and not on compromise, and by means of creating a climate of mutual adjustment of design sub-solutions (Aspects 1, 3, and 9).

In the first issue, fire protection, the solution turned out to be the installation of a sprinkler system that would detect smoke and flush water at the very beginning of any fire (Fig. 8.5a). Sprinklers are unusual for such buildings. Escape routes were kept to a minimum, although some concessions to open space concept were unavoidable (Fig. 8.5b). The daylight issue was resolved by creative solutions such as reflecting walls to lead the daylight to spots that needed more light and light domes at carefully selected locations (Fig. 8.6). Many innovative solutions were also generated for the issue of solar protection (Fig. 8.7). The issue of heating and ventilation was resolved by using the space in the floors as a plenum (Fig. 8.8).

The fifth key issue, noise hindrance and acoustics, was not addressed in a PII way. It was considered sufficient to provide for some silence rooms and for an extra budget, which would allow corrective measures to be taken after commissioning, such as the application of noises damping materials at critical locations. The result has been that most of the people who have to work in the building are extremely dissatisfied and disappointed.

How could this happen? Four of the five key issues were successfully resolved in an innovative manner that deserves only admiration and respect. The fifth issue, by contrast, was almost completely ignored in the design of

Figure 8.6 Floor height domes to provide sufficient daylight

the building, making it unsuited to its purpose: providing an adequate working place for an organisation of (top) programme makers for television and radio. The architects persisted in their view that the design reflected the practical requirements of the users, who in turn maintained that quite the opposite was true. At the time of writing, the issue is still unresolved.

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