Today architecture is image. We may bemoan the fact that experience is less and less a part of how a landscape is perceived and understood, but it’s also true that most of what we know comes to us via images: from the television screen, advertising posters or glimpsed through the windows of a moving car. This was the premise for Willem Neutelings and Michiel Riedijk’s design for the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid) in Hilversum, Holland. The building houses the country’s entire national radio and television archive, offices, and an area called “Media Experience” where the public can get a hands-on understanding of how a TV studio works.The Institute has been designed as the monumental entrance to a quarter grouping Holland’s television studios. Called Media Park, it is the site of the splendid building of broadcaster VPRO - the first ever project by architect practice MVRDV (1993-1997). By applying images to the Institute’s glazed façade - some 748 photo frames - Riedijk has turned it into a huge kaleidoscope. Colours are filtered as if through the window of a giant Gothic cathedral. Special application technology makes each image resemble a sort of bas-relief, distinguishable, however, only under certain conditions of light or distance. This vibrant coat of many colours transforms the building into a brilliantly distinctive urban landmark. The outside is just the tip of the iceberg though. Inside, a densely organised series of diverse volumes contrasts markedly with the flat outer façades. Neutelings and Riedijk had the brilliant idea of splitting the overall volume into two equal parts: the underground levels to house the huge archive and, from the ground level up, areas open to the public - exhibition spaces, offices and service zones like the atrium, restaurant, auditorium, shop and restrooms. Although distinct, each area converges on the great central cavity. Hugging the sides of this gaping hole, the stacked corridors plunge, in Dantesque Inferno style, 5 storeys below ground. Soaring upwards are the stepped volumes of the exhibition hall, meeting rooms, and restaurant sloping gently down towards a glazed façade overlooking the garden. Each section is code-clad: stone with orange-backed apertures for the archive, and glass for the offices, with aluminium cladding reminiscent of a ‘70s Paco Rabanne creation. The stepped and sloping geometries of archive, south-facing restaurant and west-facing exhibition hall allow light to penetrate the depths of the building. The overall result is one of surprising sculptural spaces that lend the building its inimitable character. With the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the architects have overturned their characteristic style of creating urban landmarks signalled by their unmistakeable shape. Although highly distinctive, the Institute’s façades are regular. It is inside that the architects’ articulated spatial distributions are given full rein. The contrast between the angular external elevations, the ethereal quality of the aboveground elements, and the solid materiality of the underground structures strikes you right from the atrium. The building’s structural frame enhances the contrast. The exhibition space is supported by just three elements: two pillars visible on the façade (three upside-down Vs), and a central element. The 54 m façade of exhibition hall and office block to the west is one huge, top-hung, glazed curtain wall. The dramatic effect of the coloured light streaming through the glazing further highlights the ineffable lightness of the whole construction. This unique building successfully combines incompatible opposites: the need to protect some 700,000 hours of highly sensitive archival film material, and the exuberantly spectacular scenario required of a place like “Media Experience” where each section is distinct yet visible. In keeping with their well-honed practice, Neutelings and Riedijk have laid out a succession of environments designed to present contrasting perceptual impressions. The entrance bridge over the archive hollow takes the visitor towards the enormous exhibition hall, on to the auditorium and finally to the restaurant. Neutelings and Riedijk allow images to caress surfaces while their architecture provides an awesome spatial experience.
For the glass façade of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum we were looking for a way to translate some original tv-images taken from the archives into sustainable coloured high-relief glass panels. What we sought to achieve was the quality of light-transmitting cathedral windows, not just a piece of glazed and mirrored technology but a lightly tactile surface.
To make the façade, it took us and Jaap Drupsteen three years, in collaboration with a research team from TNO Eindhoven and Saint-Gobain, who developed an entirely new production line. The result was 748
coloured high-relief images, applied to more than 2100 glass panels.
The challenge lay in incorporating a wide range of televised images in the façade, forming a random selection from the institute’s archives. In manufacturing the panels we opted, for reasons largely of durability, for a stained-glass technique in which a ceramic paste is applied to glazed panels by means of a specially designed printer.
Drupsteen transferred the manipulated video stills to the panels, a completely digital operation allowing him, theoretically, to transfer an unlimited number of different images at no additional cost. Much more difficult was the process of creating relief, which relies on the principle used in slumping glass.
After choosing a video still, Drupsteen milled its positive images into an MDF panel with a CNC (computer numerical control) milling machine. He then placed the wood panel, coated on one side in ceramic paste, on the sand mould in an oven heated to 820° C. At this temperature the paste burned the image into the glass, and the glass panel softened enough to take on the shape of the mould.
The result was a coloured, high-relief glass pane that is UV resistant and incorporates long-term durability.
Neutelings Riedijk Architecten