Raakspoort - City Hall and Bioscoop | The Plan
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Raakspoort - City Hall and Bioscoop

Bolles+Wilson

Cities come about through a long complicated process of stratification and sedimentation down the centuries that lays down materials and brings about transformation with the constant flux of cultural, political, economic and social change. Some of these transformations have come down to us; others have been lost. Building in a contemporary city means reading and interpreting forms, spaces, materials and colours, understanding its different parts and their relationship with the whole and then deciding whether to follow in their wake or make a break with the past. On the face of it the Raakspoort complex - the City Hall and Bioscoop designed by Bolles & Wilson - has not broken the mould. In terms of distribution, function and materials, it fits seamlessly into its Haarlem quarter. Yet it is part of a sea swell of change that is transforming the contemporary city while remaining an intricate part of it. Given the extraordinary weave of constituents, functions and spaces involved, the project was 10 years in the making. Defining the form and volume of the whole block was part of a decision-making process. Volumes, shapes and spaces are the result of consultations with neighbourhood and city representatives, investors and architects. The original idea - still clearly apparent in the finished product - was for a revitalised urban site that would slip noiselessly into the small-scale fabric of the surrounding neighbourhood. As the corner section of an urban block enclosing a pedestrian precinct, the new development had to be designed to prevent the access of vehicles but invite in pedestrians. It does so by taking its place in the sequence of façades that mark the boundary of the medieval town. The project’s functional programme was the second aspect of the development process. The original version was for a multiplex cinema and casino separated by a passage leading into the quarter. What has actually been built is a multiplex, on one...

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