Distinguished and functional, hard and ethereal, rough and refined: the Supreme Court of the Netherlands exhibits a close relationship between openness and security. The iconic architecture elegantly integrates into the historic city center of The Hague, expressing the democratic constitutional principles through a clear and rational structure.
The building, which measures 18.000 m2 and houses a staff of 350 employees, is located in the elegantly historic city center of The Hague. Situated along the Korte Voorhout, a royal route connecting several institutional buildings to the Malieveld Park and Parliament building, the building interacts with the trees across the street announcing the city gateway.
The main entrance is flagged by six bronze statues of legal scholars seated on pedestals, with a single pane of glass subtly marking the transition from the street to the interior. The transparency of the building signifies both accessibility to the public as well as the soundness and clarity of judgment. The building is firmly grounded on an earthy stone base, giving rise to a crystalline superstructure. The design organises the functional requirements of the Supreme Court by dividing the volume in three horizontal layers: the plinth with public areas and courtrooms, the secured private working areas above (Council, Procurator General and President Offices) and facility services in between (library, restaurant and operational management).
Given the public nature of jurisdiction, court buildings need to be accessible to the public. They are not only open to the public, they also have facilities for the public, visitors’ galleries in the courtrooms and waiting areas in front of them. On the other hand, court premises must also provide excellent conditions for work that requires a high degree of concentration and work that takes place behind closed doors.
The entrance hall, the public area with the courtrooms and the press room, has double height ceilings that span the full length of the building. The floors and walls are of a light grey limestone that exudes a velvety texture. The large and small courtrooms, which hold 400 and 80 visitors respectively, are distinguished by brown-veined translucent alabaster walls.
The upper floors accommodate offices, a library with study places, a restaurant, and council and meeting chambers. Daylight in the heart of the building is very important, but the light wells and open atriums serve another important purpose for the building’s users. They form the core of the distinct domains of the Council and Procurator General. The two departments are identified by the use of different materials: a vertically striped Marmara Equator marble in the Council, and an organic Skyline marble in the Procurator General Office area.
The vertical light wells and the transparent frontal façade perform a dual purpose role, providing important natural light into the heart of the building and forming the cores of the different domains and the public atrium, reducing consistently the use of artificial light throughout the year. The upper facades are climate controlled, windows can be opened if desired, keeping wind and noise out of the interior. A very good ergonomic and healthy working environment is established for a long period: a responsible choice of natural materials, generous day lighting, efficient and personally adjustable sun shading and privacy. Sun blinds and light filters can also be individually regulated. This controlled double protection produces a layered facade, flat and yet canted, a subtle nuance that adds even more elegance to the whole.
The Supreme Court of The Netherlands is a Dutch PPP Project (public-private partnership), based on a DBFMO contract (Design, Build, Finance, Maintain and Operate). Within the contract, KAAN Architecten is responsible for all design/engineering/consultancy services related to urban design, landscape, architecture and interior architecture, representing the ‘D’ (Design) of DBFMO. All parties involved in the contract (a consortium of five companies) are responsible for the maintenance and correct performance of the building over a period of 30 years upon delivery. Construction and technical installations are designed to easily adapt to future changes. The monumentality of the building is combined with an exceptional meticulousness in the construction details and design choices focusing on longevity of the materials employed.
KAAN Architecten is a Rotterdam based architectural firm operating in a global context and merging practical and academic expertise within the fields of architecture, urbanism and research on the built environment.
The studio, led by Kees Kaan, Vincent Panhuysen and Dikkie Scipio, consists of an international team of architects, landscape architects, urban planners, engineers and graphic designers. KAAN Architecten believes cross-pollination between projects and disciplines is a tool to fostering a critical debate within the studio.
Since the launch of the firm, KAAN Architecten has handled and supervised a wide range of projects, actively working with the private and the public sector, with project teams that become increasingly multidisciplinary and dynamic. KAAN Architecten maintains a culture of constant evolution, which is essential in a profession that changes at a rapid pace. KAAN Architecten seeks to uphold long-term relationships with clients, consultants and partners.