Sunday, May 29, 2011

Beautiful Dutch Power Plant Clad in Delftware Tiles: The Ugliest Building of the Netherlands

The combined heating and power plant (the 'City Hearth') is a gateway building for the district of Roombeek, an eye-catcher and a point of reference: a basic form 10 metres high with a 40-metre chimney. Its elevations are clad in one-metre-square panels with expressive motifs and figurative depictions. These are reminiscent of the delftware tiles that line Holland's traditional open hearths and therefore hint that this structure might have something to do with fire and warmth: the City Hearth. The artist is Hugo Kaagman.

The building, desigened by Branimir Medić & Pero Puljiz has been named Stadshaard (which translates to ‘city hearth’), to honor the source of the city’s light and heat. Two gas turbines in the Combined Cycle Energy plant (CHP) generate on-demand electricity while providing district heating for the community’s buildings. This makes the facility two times more efficient than plants that generate energy alone, but this also means that the plant has to be located in the community it serves.

To celebrate the building as the community’s hearth, the designers decided to tile it in iconic Delftware glazed tiles that commemorate the Netherlands native and communicate the function of the building they clad. Recently the Stadshaard of Enschede was selected by the readers of the NRC Handelsblad as being 'the ugliest building of the Netherlands'. The editor of this Dutch newspaper was surprised by this choice and concludes that striking architecture always tends to be controversial. Architect Branimir Medić is content with the outcome: "The difference between ugly or beautiful is often minute. If you asked people to select the most beautiful building they might end up picking the Stadshaard as well." Sources: Inhabitat and Cie

The new cogeneration plant was built on a prominent location on the edge of the site (called The Brewery) that once Grolsch brewery was located. When the fireworks on May 13, 2000, much of this area and Roombeek wiped out. That disaster gave the municipality an opportunity to create a complete redevelopment of the area where homes and buildings are an efficient way to provide heat.

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