Koningin Julianaplein is a new city gate for The Hague; a new and welcoming entrance for a diverse and thriving international city. For years the site, a vacant plaza sandwiched between the main train station and Koekamp Park, had been redundant as the last piece in an urban redevelopment jigsaw to be solved. Our scheme for a 42.000 m2 mixed-use U-tower with 2.000 m2 retail and public facilities at ground level and a 2.200 m2 congress centre creates clarity and convenience for users of the station, business and public space of the city, while realising 37.000 m2 contemporary living in 350 private apartments that come together in cascading lush green terraces above.
Powerhouse Company won an invited competition to design a residential building in front of the main central station in mid 2016. The team faced the challenge of creating harmony within an environment of strongly varying styles, while at the same time generating an outspoken design of the building in itself. Taking both the green of the park in front and the high-rise buildings of The Hague behind in form, Koningin Julianaplein is a new type of architecture for the Netherlands – a green residential tower or sky garden inspired by advanced global references from Singapore to Milan. KJ-plein quenches an increasing thirst for nature in the modern city; be it through urban farms or rooftop gardens. It uses nature as part of the building, not just the landscape surrounding it. And finally, it restores a space for nature and people to connect while meeting the necessary density of a cosmopolitan setting.
The prominent location of KJ-plein demanded a well thought-through design. The site is one of both transition and leisure, a station entrance yet a park. The proximity of the office building on top of the train station and restrictions caused by the planned building of a bicycle parking under the site made the brief ambitious. The programme is in addition to the station’s current facilities and anticipates on the changing needs of the modern urban inhabitant, to whom health, pleasure and ease are important issues. The public aspect for the site has been designed in such a way that it strengthens the park entrance while simultaneously facilitating peak times for the station and less crowded moments during the week. Meanwhile the 350 apartments, of which at least half are for rent, are provided with good amenities and views; all while respecting the building’s existing neighbours.
The Hague is an international City of Peace.
The Hague is a special city. On a national level it is not the capital of the Netherlands, yet it houses the seat of government, parliament, one of the King’s palaces, the Supreme Court and the Council of State. But more than that: The Hague is an international City of Peace. It is home to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, making it one of the world’s major United Nations hosting cities alongside New York, Geneva, Vienna, Rome and Nairobi. With most of the country’s foreign embassies and more than 150 international organisations, The Hague is a city with sincerity, honour as well as a thriving cultural scene, historical architecture and an extensive green structure in the inner city.
Koningin Julianaplein is located between the main train station and Koekamp Park across the street, close to many ministries, foreign embassies and NGOs. The site is therefore one of the most prominent and visible areas in the city, and will become the face of the train station where thousands of people enter and leave on a daily basis.
But aside from handling streams of traffic efficiently, a city entrance also operates at a larger and more conceptual scale: it needs to reflect the essential qualities of the city and give an immediate understanding of the whole urban area. Our ambition for this project was to create a welcoming gate for the thousands of commuters, students, visitors and tourists, nationally and internationally, that get introduced to the Hague through Koningin Julianaplein on a daily basis. It should be functional, recognisable and inviting.A project appealing to the international public by its pleasant, elegant and green character.
From a distance, KJ-plein introduces itself as two slender towers in the Hague’s skyline. Between the two towers, that are spaced as widely as possible across the site, a beautiful and lush green valley of terraces unravels. By stretching the two towers to the far ends of the site in an L-shaped plan, and creating the green valley in between, sunlight can reach the public square for as long as possible during the day.
With it’s U-shaped elevation, the KJ-towers form a strong gesture in the skyline, while setbacks in the towers make a subtle but dynamic connection with the surrounding buildings and a fierce icon for the Hague. Horizontal golden lines break up the verticality of the elevation.
When approaching the building more closely on foot, however, our scheme subtly blends Koekamp Park and KJ-plein together, giving the square a lush and relaxed feel. By interrupting the Bezuidenhoutseweg, a street for car traffic north-west of the station, the connection between KJ-plein and Koekamp Park is amplified by creating a park-like environment. A new bridge will cross over the water and the fences bordering the park will be removed. In this way, KJ-plein will feel bigger and more open as it becomes a part of Koekamp and Haagse Bos.
On the square so-called ‘green pearls’ create a variety of paths and leisure space that guide slow traffic towards their destinations. KJ-plein becomes a hybrid between city plaza and park, which makes it possible for people to take a moment to themselves or gather in large numbers. The swinging landscape creates tranquil, semi-private lounging spots and refers to the nearby dunes which are an important border between the Hague and the sea.
The vaulted ceiling encourages walking routes in an instinctive and natural way.
At the start and end of this journey through the site is the ‘golden’ gateway through the building.Again inspired by the dunes, the entire building is raised on slender piloti to create an open ground floor that can be crossed effortlessly by visitors. Without any back sides to the building, an undulating wooden underworld gives direction and access to visitors through its ceiling, a negative of the dunes themselves. The vaulted ceiling encourages walking routes from the station through the building and out into the city – and vice versa - in an instinctive and natural way. At certain points the ceiling drops down completely to give access to the congress centre and apartments above, as well as to contain pockets for restaurants and retail to spill into the space. As a gesture linking the new architecture with its internationally important location, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is inscribed in golden characters into the undulations of the ceiling.
The entrance to the underground bicycle parking is shaped in the same curving language and forms an inviting gesture for cyclists approaching the station from the outside. Small retail pavilions with inversely undulating timber roofs are also scattered across the square, extending and connecting the internal environment of the underworld onto the open park-like public exterior.
It uses nature as part of the building, not just the landscape surrounding it.
Inside, apartments vary in size from 45 m2 to 160 m2, from compact studio to penthouse. Homes in the plinth have views onto the new square and park, while the apartments around the valley have generous green terraces oriented towards the sun. A collective roof garden is accessible for all inhabitants.
In it’s materialisation, KJ-plein seeks a strong relationship with its context, harmonising the best of the architecture of its neighbouring buildings. On its right, the technical facades in grey aluminium of New Babylon are dominant, while towards the city centre the architecture is built mostly in stone and warm colours. KJ-plein unites these styles with vertical white concrete accents and horizontal golden ribbons at the top of the building.
Next to the gradual transition of the broad plinth to the slim towers, the KJ-towers end at the top with a setback of two layers and a golden crown. A classical gesture like this can be seen as typical for the “Haagse”architecture. The golden accent is repeated in other places in the facade, where the building’s volume mass finds connections with its neighbours.