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Making architecture with graphic intent

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In the context of a cityscape, Dutch practice Neutelings Riedijk's new home for Veenman Drukkers (Printers) would be merely impressive. In the middle of a dull industrial estate on the boundary of nondescript Ede, it stands wilfully bizarre; surreal even. The 4000m2 building is a concerted attempt to implement a quiet democracy and remove barriers which continue to hamper the elusive 'pleasant working environment'.

The approach is particularly apt for a communication industry often notably bereft of simple human interaction. At a fundamental level, this meant dismantling the traditional separation of white- and blue-collar workers which dictates the generic form of neighbouring buildings. Three main areas - offices, workshop and storage - were located under a single V- shaped elevation according to their necessary headroom. The profile reflects the giant 'V' of the existing company logo, itself functioning as both structural support and entrance flag. These functionally-distinct spaces are linked by airy corridors and a central courtyard bounded by full-height windows to allow maximum visibility across departments. The positioning of internal windows and communal areas further enhances the open nature, with constant contrast between metal and wood; silver and terracotta.

Veenman's intention to maintain a commitment to arts-based printing is manifest in its enthusiasm for the striking facade that wraps the structure. After early deliberation over the form, the architect enlisted typographer Karel Martens to capture the industry's graphic spirit. The collaboration resulted in 1m-high letters 'printed' on individual panels of inexpensive, durable glass and bound by black rubber to form a giant greenhouse. Behind the window, huge sheets of reflective insulation curtain the interior and subtly alter the building's appearance as weather and light change. To complement fully the cross-disciplinary spirit, Veenman commissioned an original piece from poet K Schippers to wrap around and down the building.

Photos by Scagliola/Brakkee

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