Centraal Beheer

Herman Hertzberger

Opened in 1972

Apeldoorn, The Netherlands

Portrait of Herman Hertzberger

Revolutionized office design

The office of Centraal Beheer was built of concrete and extended by the use of cubic elements measuring nine by nine metres. Four to eight workplaces per floor are located in each element. It was a revolutionary design at the time, not only because of the outside but also because of the open structure on the inside. It features a number of large open-plan offices. It also has courtyards with balconies, bridges and meeting places. As a result, the workplaces are connected horizontally and vertically and the building would have a non-hierarchical atmosphere.

© Aero Carto Aviodrome

The building was built for 1000 employees of the Centraal Beheer insurance company. It was designed not as an office building but as a workspace. For this purpose, Hertzberger assembled sixty cubes in order to form a single articulated unit, each floor being connected by over-passes.. The breaches between the cubes are closed with glass, in order to unite the structure. This also makes it possible to diffuse natural light in the circulation spaces and evoke an outdoor atmosphere in the building.

Man working at Centraal Beheer Office designed by Herman Hertzberger.
© Photo: AHH.nl
© Photo: AHH.nl

From the outside the whole appears as an open-air structure. From the inside the cube module is organized according to specific needs. The corners are organized as a meeting point or as a place to relax and have a coffee. The work spaces are organized to create a social atmosphere in the cubes.

© Photo: AHH.nl
© Photo: AHH.nl

The zenithal openings, the use of glass squares, the transparency in the space of the escalators allow an optimal natural illumination and spread out in the building.

© Photo: Max Schmitz, Park Rozendaal (2021)

The strength of the architecture of the Centraal Beheer office building is that each cube is detached from the others, breaking the monumentality of the structure. But they are visually and physically connected to the other workspaces, forming a single unit, a unified workspace.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Achmea announced that it would be leaving the building. In 2013, the company's activities moved to a location in Apeldoorn South. (the Achmea Campus).

After the move, the question arose of what to do with the complex. In the meantime, the building turned out to be dated and no longer economically viable. This was for two reasons. Firstly, the number of workplaces that can be accommodated per square meter is too small, due to the many courtyards and squares. Secondly, it is expensive to heat the building because it has large single-glazed windows and replacing the window frames will be an expensive operation.

Hertzberger Park

Centraal Beheer will now be part of a new district. Architect MVRDV and Hertzberger his agency AHH will transform the complex to a neighbourhood with 650 to 800 homes. It will be named Hertzberger Park.

© Photo: Max Schmitz, Park Rozendaal (2021)

‘‘The grid forms the basis of the building structure, but in wood. The old building will be revived with programs and architectural elements, guided by structuralist principles. The emphasis on structure gives the landscape a pattern that is just as clear as the monument, within which a 'wilder' interpretation with trees, grasses, water, play and sports facilities is possible. In the following phases, it will be determined which tree species can best be added to the park to stimulate biodiversity,’’ says MVRDV.


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