International : Westraven Office Complex

The cepezed-designed Westraven Office Complex in Utrecht, the Netherlands, has once again been enthusiastically acclaimed. During the festive Dutch Construction Gala this Wednesday, the project brought cepezed-architect Ronald Schleurholts and the commissioning Government Buildings Agency the Dutch Construction Award 2009 for its excellence in different aspects.

The jury, amongst others comprised by professors in sustainable housing and architectural engineering and presided by former secretary of state Karla Peijs, judged Westraven to be a fascinating building with all comfort for the user. The adjudicators’ observations:

This construction is sustainable on all fronts, which we value very highly. An enourmous investment has been made to revitalise this building. The redefinition of the office has been exemplarily elabourated. In combination with the new construction, it is a magnificent renovation. The fully renewed building is a dazzling beacon within its complex urban situation. Because of its meticulous development and characteristic materialisation of the façades, it has an entirely unique appearance. The construction is pervaded with progress and transparency and is a shining example of how the existing office stock can be reinterpreted.

Westraven is a complex and large-scale combination of an existing tower and new construction for various sections of the Dutch Department of Public Works in the Westraven area between the Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal and the junction of the A2 and A12 motorways at Utrecht. The programme covers more than 53,000 m² and consists of office space, conference facilities, a national meeting centre, a communications centre, and the Future Center for the Department of Public Works. More than 2000 people are employed in Westraven.

The existing high-rise construction has completely been renovated and reorganized. An elongated four-storey building has risen around the foot of the building. Vides in the floors and façades made entirely of glass give a strong impulse to the spatial experience of the high-rise block, which was rather limited in the original architecture. Vides, atriums, conservatories, and inner gardens furnish the transparent new construction with an unprecedented spatial quality, and are also important for the orientation of the staff and visitors.

The various functions of high-rise and low-rise construction are combined at the foot of the tower in large, open spaces that invite both a rendezvous and casual encounters. Many of the working areas have been designed as flexible workstations, so that it is possible to work at various places in the building. Much attention has been devoted to realizing perfect equilibrium between low energy consumption and an optimum working climate. For this purpose, an ingenious climate concept has been developed which makes use of thermically active floors, among other methods.

The conservatories also work as climate buffers and the artificial lighting adjusts itself automatically to the colour and intensity of the incidence of daylight. Furthermore, a revolutionary feature is the innovative second-skin façade of open-weave, teflon-coated glass fibre that offers all-round protection against the wind and makes it possible to work with open windows, even on the top floors. As a result, the staff enjoy great freedom in regulating their own interior climate, which is quite a luxury for high-rise construction.

The Dutch Construction Award is not the first tribute paid to Westraven. Last year, the project received the Daylight Award 2008 for its optimal equilibrium between the use of daylight, artificial lighting and other architectural aspects. Westraven was also nominated for the National Steel Prize and as Building of the Year 2008. It still is in competition for the prestigious Mies van der Rohe Award 2009.

cepezed is an architectural firm based in Delft, The Netherlands. In the past few decades, it has gained renown with transparent, sustainable and technologically progressive architecture that is remarkably usable and humane. Unaffected design, sober but stylish materialization, and careful finishing are just as characteristic of cepezed’s oeuvre as the integration of spatial and construction-technical aspects. The design and building processes at cepezed are also integrated: the use of prefab components and the application of industrial building methods guarantee an optimum alignment of design and realization, in which time, quality, and costs are meticulously planned and controlled.

cepezed has been a well-respected, well-reviewed and frequently awarded agency for over decades. At the moment, it is riding a real high wave of public and professional praise. Besides other prizes and nominations directly related to projects, last year the office was nominated architect of the year, while the Royal Institute of Dutch Architects (BNA) bestowed cepezed with its highest recognition, the BNA Cube, for its complete body of work. Also, the duo-publication The work of cepezed, in which the oeuvre, philosophy and methods of the office are reflected, was short listed for the Riba Book Awards 2008. The books are available through 010 publishers,, which also released a book entirely devoted to the Westraven project.