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An 84-year-old sorting office becomes an HQ for the now

Once home to conveyor belts and sorting machines, the functionalist Stationspostgebouw has been transformed into a multipurpose workspace for PostNL.

07/03/2023 2 min read

With a distinctive pale brick façade on curved forms and glass block windows, and as one of the first examples of the use of prefab concrete columns in the world, the Stationspostgebouw is one of the more prominent buildings found alongside the railway going into The Hague. Maintaining much of its monumental character, KCAP and Kraaijvanger Architects sought to uplift the textbook functionalist postal sorting office into a modern-day headquarters for PostNL.

Responding to the mailing company’s need for a new way of working, a focus was made on flexible collaboration, versatile use and employee wellbeing throughout Stationspostgebouw. By considering the design principles of a house, spaces throughout were defined by the two design studios, and diverse rooms of different sizes intertwined. “Our environment has a major impact on how we learn, work and live, think and feel,” says Chantal Vos, associate partner at Kraaijvanger Architects, “many offices are too closed and isolated or completely open and too exposed, a good workspace is all about balance, an environment where people feel at home.”

To increase light on lower floors, staggered voids were constructed to create a lively interplay between single-height and double-height floors. Recalling the grandeur of the machines that once dominated the space, Irma van Oort, partner at KCAP, describes the newfound atrium, surrounded by cascaded floors and traversed with bridges and stairs, “as a metaphor for the conveyor belts and sorting machines that used to deliver mail directly from the station”. The result is an impressive atrium that opens the building up and makes people ‘see and be seen’ – the new office’s vibrant heart.

Labelled the ‘Community Centre’, the first floor adorns a reception and café with adjacent common areas, meeting zones and workspaces. On the upper floors a flexible set-up has been arranged, allowing a variety of workplace concepts to be offered according to bespoke needs. “Crucial to the transformation is creating an office building for a new way of working, making the work environment feel like a living room: widely usable, but also secure,” says van Oort.

In response to the building’s architectural language, Kraaijvanger opted to leave much of the interior unconcealed and undecorated, “The result is a powerful collaboration of constructive expression, a unique mix in which the monument and its interior enhance each other. Together, they form a singular visual language that appeals to people of all ages,” adds Vos.

As the first national monument to be certified with the highest achievable energy label ‘A’ in the Netherlands, sustainability was a key driver in the design process. A glass ‘second skin’ on the inside of the building provides an almost invisible layer of insulation. By doing so, the monumental façade was preserved while the building simultaneously met the requirements for WELL and BREAM standards. In line with circular economy principles, existing materials were re-used wherever possible.

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