The Roman bath in Heerlen is the oldest building in The Netherlands (67 a.D). In 1976 excavations were completed and covered by a large roof of the then revolutionary spaceframe. Smaller exhibition rooms cluttered around this square building. A peculiar concrete archive tower was added. The museum has become obsolete. Conceiving a substantial extension on the site wasn’t easy. The invention of the design team was to keep the 4 concrete columns of the archive and building a light weight steel construction on top. Large exhibition rooms will be connected by a helix of ramps, with the Roman bath as apotheosis. The new museum is cladded by ceramic tiles, referring to the Roman tradition of pottery. The expression of the bath itself will be improved by adding a wall of Roman masonry.
The position of the Roman bath is evidently fixed and its counterform in the urban fabric did not reveal an easy clue. By lifting the new museum on the existing construction of the former archive, the ground floor is an open entry-area, directly connected to a small square and the main street. It will be an important urban interface, connected by the street with a series of other squares and public buildings. And an elegant way to enter the museum. In the street the crossing of two former roman ways as well as the remains will be represented by different materials, bringing the past to life. Although the GFA of the museum will increase significantly, its footprint will be reduced. Existing trees are all kept. An undulation landscape with a high biodiversity will be added.
Preserving the oldest building in the country is sustainability on another level! Although the first priority of a monument may not be ‘eco-compatibility’, the building complies with present standards in many ways. The climate of monument is based the ‘Danish model’: keeping the climate stable almost without installations, using the capacity of the ground and having a very good insulation (super-passive). New constructions follow the cradle-to-cradle concept. Hollow core floors are not cast together, for instance, so that in the future they can be taken out and reused. Existing remnants and debris are used in the new wall. The new roof is covered with 500 PV-panels. Around the building green surface will increase dramatically, as well as biodiversity. The GPR score is 9,0
Perhaps the most conspicuous aspect of the design is the integration of all aspects of architecture: 1. The position in the city with the small entry square along the ancient ring road and the new undulating garden around. All architecture starts with urban design! The new museum will be one ‘gem’ in a chain of public buildings, bound together by the Roman carpet (a concept we’ve introduced) 2. The smart integration of an architectural concept with an audacious structural solution. We apply a light weight construction on an existing foundation, creating a magic floating box. 3. The creation of a ‘route architecturale’, a functional concept of two exhibition spaces (temporary and permanent) before you enter the roman bath as an apotheosis. The ‘core’ of the program is supported by the educational spaces (with roof-terrace) and entry-shop-auditorium-terrace on the ground floor. 4. The intense search of a new and significant expression of the building: the new wall inspired by Roman masonry and partly reused materials around the bath, and the cladding of the cube by ceramics in the tradition of the pottery the Romans brought to the region. 5. The surprising combination of two ‘solids’, opening up on the terrace and ground floor, and by the windows along the ramp and the ‘secret eye’ in the back of the bath, allowing a view of the Roman ditch.
The client has described the Roman bath as ‘the best kept Roman secret of The Netherlands’. Together, our aim is to make it the ‘best revealed secret’. A lively museum, open for education, meetings, a local and international forum, a museum where you want to go back to
Kraaijvanger Architects is an internationally operating architectural firm, founded in 1927 and based Rotterdam where we work with about 70 professionals on a wide variety of projects.
In everything we do, it is our ambition to reconnect people and nature through timeless architecture with a positive social and ecological footprint.
With generous, inclusive designs, we serve our client and society. Our designs have the resilience to accommodate the diversity of constantly changing social needs and activities. And shows a wide variety of projects: from revitalization of cities, large public buildings and innovative industries to housing, interiors, and specials.
We share a strong belief in the future, and that is why we work on sustainable buildings that purify the air, contain biodiversity, share space in surprising ways, provide energy, make people healthier and happier, and are 100% reusable; buildings with a positive footprint.