- Project Name
- New European Patent Office Site The Hague
- Dam & Partners Architecten
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- New Construction
- 278,871 sq. feet
- Year Completed
- Shared by
- Miabelle Salzano
Jean Nouvel, Hon. FAIA
- Project Status
Financed entirely from the Office’s own resources, the new premises are the EPO’s largest single investment in its 40-year history in the Netherlands. With a budget of some EUR 205 million, this new architectural landmark was designed by renowned architects Ateliers Jean Nouvel of Paris and Dam & Partners Architecten of Amsterdam – and Diederik Dam describes it as the slimmest and tallest glass and steel construction of its kind in Europe.
The EPO has deep historical roots in Rijswijk, and today it is one of the EPO’s most important sites both in terms of staffing and operations. The new building will replace the current tower that has hosted the offices of EPO staff in Rijswijk for the last 40 years, and before that, the EPO’s forerunner organisation, the Institut International des Brevets (IIB).
The decision to construct a new building was a result of a firm resolution to provide EPO staff with a state-of-the-art workplace – one that would be sustainable, symbolise the EPO’s commitment to supporting innovation in Europe, and underline its close ties with the Netherlands, and The Hague region in particular.
The new building will enable the EPO to utilise greater synergies between its operational units in Rijswijk by bringing them together on one site. EPO staff will start working in the new building from this autumn, and the old tower will be taken out of service and dismantled from October. With landscaping work to take place thereafter, the overall renewal of the site is expected to be completed in 2020.
The new EPO premises in Rijswijk were designed by renowned architects Ateliers Jean Nouvel of Paris and Dam & Partners Architecten of Amsterdam and comprise two buildings, referred to as the New Main and the New Hinge:
The New Main is the largest steel structure ever constructed in the Netherlands with a design that draws upon the natural landscape of Holland, with its semi-reflective glass surface that mirrors the sky, land and water. The New Main is pure and serene and, in the right weather, the top floors even seem to merge with the sky. The slender shape of the 27-storey building allows the light to pass through, inducing a sense of transparency as it appears to float effortlessly. Due to its double-glazed coated façade, the 960 exterior glass elements become its defining characteristic. After several decades of use, the present main building had begun to show signs of wear due to ageing and Holland’s windy, often rainy climate. The New Main building was created to replace it, providing an opportunity to design a modern, comfortable workplace for some 2 000 EPO employees.
Behind the prominent high-rise is the four-storey New Hinge. It will house an extension of the seating area of the restaurant, eight meeting rooms for oral proceedings, a new fitness area and meeting rooms, and have a jungle-like atrium. Glass, steel, plants and various colours have been used to create a remarkable design.
The New Main building occupies 85 000 square metres and has working spaces for 1 950 staff. One of the EPO’s requirements was that the designers create an open, transparent building with a mix of both standard offices and shared spaces to ensure that conditions provided new ways of co-operation and space management.
The New Main building has several unique features representing elements that appear in nature, including a roof garden accessible for all staff which is partly covered with solar panels and protected by windbreakers. The entrance is adorned with a canopy, and 300 varieties of lush plants extend across the length and height of the building. In total, 198 planter boxes have been installed in the wide cavity between the two façades facing the highway. Rough, dark and compact plants at ground level will give way to airier, lighter and finer ones higher up. As such, plants at ground level and below include varieties with big, dark leaves and ferns growing against rough stone walls. There are shared workspaces at the far ends and also in the middle sections of every office floor; these are equipped with individual desks and movable partitions for five to seven staff. Every office floor will have two centrally located kitchenettes.
This smaller New Hinge building houses an extension of the seating area of the existing restaurant, eight meeting rooms for oral proceedings, a new fitness area and meeting rooms, and has an immersive, jungle-like atrium. A commercial area with space for several shops is available in the corridor connecting the Hinge to the New Main building.
Once the old main building has been removed, the new complex will have a new promenade and entrance on the side garden. In addition, visitors can walk “underwater” beneath the glass roof of the gallery that links the New Main to the New Hinge.
The EPO’s New Main building was constructed using 10 000 tonnes of steel, making it the largest steel construction of its kind and quality to be built in the Netherlands. The consortium opted for steel because it allows for relatively rapid and low-noise construction. In the Netherlands, concrete is still the material of choice for large office buildings, but steel is lighter in weight and offers advantages over concrete when it comes to the risk of subsidence, and also offers greater flexibility in space planning. The six custom-made frames required for the tall, slender building – approximately 107 metres high, 150 metres long and 24.7 metres wide from façade to façade – each weigh 52 tonnes and must absorb the full power of horizontal wind forces and direct them into the ground.
Architect Jean Nouvel’s vision was for the building to reflect the sky and surrounding water, which is why glass is the most prominent feature of New Main. Nouvel and his co-designers Dam & Partners opted for a striking curtain wall system which allows for a modern finish with clean lines and a unique look. In fact, the construction has two façades. An inner and an outer skin form a cavity which is not only attractive but also serves as a climate buffer between the inside and outside of the building. By deflecting wind and rain away from the exterior of the building, the glass curtain fulfils the EPO’s requirements for sustainable energy management. The long façades on either side of the building change their appearance along with the weather and the light, from transparent to opaque and everything in between. Passers-by in the street see a panorama unfold. Measuring 100 000 square metres, the total area of glass is equal in size to some 12 football pitches.
New Main is situated below sea level, so careful water management is essential, and sustainable systems are required to manage and recycle rainwater, wastewater and groundwater. As more than a quarter of the Netherland’s surface is below sea level, its relationship with water is dynamic, and water is foremost in the Dutch mind at all times. New Main’s designers played with this perception and the engineers have worked with water management in very smart ways. Once the old tower building has been demolished, New Main and New Hinge will be surrounded by a vast pond with a surface area of 16 275 square metres. The pond positioned above the Level 0 will create the impression that the building rises up from the water. Staff and visitors will literally walk “underwater” to enter the building.
As part of its original design brief for New Main, the EPO stipulated that the energy performance requirements for the new building should be 20% more efficient than those set by the Netherlands as part of its commitment to meeting EU legislation.
Therefore, the new EPO office buildings combine modern architecture with responsible urban planning in order to minimise environmental impact. Each building characteristic has been thoughtfully considered from a design aspect as well as an ecological one. The aim is for the building to be regenerative in the areas of air, light, and temperature to minimise energy costs.
Internationally Eecognised Eco Standards
The project was built under criteria set by BREEAM-NL (Netherlands) and BNB (Germany), internationally high standards for ecological responsibility, energy efficiency, and sustainability.
Vast arrays of photovoltaic solar panels on the roof sky garden provide a source of renewable electric energy to the main power supply to be distributed throughout the building. In addition, rainwater will be collected and used to supplement the conventional water supply for flushing toilets and watering plants and flowers.
Lush Plant Gardens
A double glass façade houses hanging gardens, containing 300 varieties of plants along the entire vertical interior. The architects consider these living plants to be part of the architectural components of the building.
Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage System
The building has an aquifer thermal energy storage system (ATES) which will reduce primary energy consumption and related CO2 emissions. Energy-saving use of natural light The building has been designed to make maximum use of natural light. Moreover, approximately 16 000 LED light fixtures will save approximately 430 000 kilowatt hours every year.
Recycled Materials Reduce Waste
In total, 90% per cent of the materials from the existing tower building and its annexes will be conditioned and recycled for projects like road embankments in the Netherlands.
Natural Climate Control
Each office is supplied with 100% fresh air. Each panel in the climate ceiling is fitted with a pipe circuit through which warm or chilled water can flow. The energy for heating or cooling this water is gained via the ATES system heat exchange with groundwater wells