Delft erases an urban planning mistake with new rail and station at historic City Hall

Delft is a city in the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. It’s located between Rotterdam and The Hague.

Delft city center.
Photo by Boserma via Wikipedia.

The city is home to the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), which regarded as center of technological research and development in the Netherlands, and is famous for its Delft Blue pottery. Historically, Delft played a highly influential role in the Dutch Golden Age.

Delft also has a special place in the history of microbiology. In terms of science and technology, thanks to the pioneering contributions of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Martinus Beijerinck, Delft is considered the birthplace of microbiology, along with with several sub-disciplines such as bacteriology, protozoology, and virology.

But most outsiders know Delft as a popular tourist attraction. Unlike the embarrassingly-obsolete transit system here in the U.S., Europe has an extensive, efficient, modern rail network, making its train station of prime importance to its tourism industry.

And the city leaders realize that. In fact, they’ve beautifully integrated their new train station with their historic City Hall. In the process, they turned 50-year-old urban planning mistake into a revitalizing new community asset. A stormwater culvert dug by civil engineers was brilliantly repurposed as a new train line going straight to City Hall.

Arriving in Delft is now an unforgettable experience. From the outset, Dutch architectural firm Mecanoo’s idea was to design a station that makes it clear to visitors that they have arrived in Delft. The station, in combination with the new city hall, sits atop a new train tunnel built in place of the old concrete viaduct that had disastrously divided the city since 1965.

Coming up the escalators, the impressive ceiling with the historic map of Delft unfolds. When you look outside, you see the city and the old station as a contemporary version of Johannes Vermeer’s painting “View of Delft”.

Interweaving past and future

The city of Delft reflects its past: the multitude of historic buildings and canals; the “Prinsenstad” city, closely connected to the Dutch Royal Family; and, of course, the world famous Delftware ceramic factories.

On the other hand, the Delft University of Technology is at the forefront of technical innovation. The character of Delft, epitomised in this combination of past and future, was the starting point for the design.

Delft Blue

A vaulted ceiling features an enormous historic 1877 map of Delft and its surroundings, connecting the station with the city hall. Within the station hall, walls and columns are adorned with a contemporary re-interpretation of Delft Blue tiles.

You can walk directly from the station into the city hall. The glass skin of the building is designed to reflect the Dutch skies. The panels of fused glass with lens-like spheres reference a vernacular window design that can be seen throughout the historic city.

The combination and rhythm of open panels of high performance glass and closed fused glass panels enable a high degree of energy efficiency.

Contextually compact

Throughout the design process the building volume has been shaved and reformed to create a compact, highly efficient building form.

The lowered roof lines at the corners provide a gradual transition towards the existing small-scale development of the Delft city centre and the adjacent Wester Quarter.

The building connects the historic inner city on the east side of the railway tunnel with the residential neighborhoods located to the west, realigning the centre of Delft. Incisions in the glass volume of the city hall building form a pattern of alleyways and courtyards, which are themselves inspired by the intricate structure of Delft.

More Sustainable Than Most

The facade responds to the different sun orientations, which determined the amount of glass incorporated, thus mitigating daylight needs while reducing heat gain in the summer months.

The glass has a high light absorption factor but low solar absorption, and all windows can be opened manually for user comfort and natural ventilation.

Solar panels on the roof provide 20% of the energy for the building mechanics and presence aware lighting.

The GreenCalc+ score is rated at 270. Not enough to be considered truly sustainable, but certainly more sustainable than most buildings.

See Mecanoo website.

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