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The building that cares

Dutch architect firm, Mecanoo, is internationally known for projects like the train station in Delft, the library in Birmingham and the Manchester Technical University campus. Until recently, healthcare buildings were not on Mecanoo’s list of successful projects. That changed when Mecanoo received the assignment to build a new medical centre in the Dutch city, Zaandam. For architect Ryan van Kanten it was an opportunity to put himself on the map with Mecanoo, as a non-typical hospital architect. Klaartje Til visited the Mecanoo office in Delft to interview Ryan van Kanten, the architect who thinks it is only logical that a building should have caring qualities.

by Klaartje Til

I will come straight to the point. Can a building have caring qualities?
Yes, I think so, but only when the building is seen as a whole. Mecanoo tries to do this. Right from the start of the design process we look for ways to give people in the building a better feeling. It turned out very well with our project for the Zaans Medical Centre. They did not want the new building to be a classic example of a hospital building. They didn’t decide to go for a typical hospital architect, and wanted something different. Mecanoo had not designed a hospital before. Still, they came to us, because they wanted something different.

What makes the Zaans Medical Centre so different from other hospitals?
Our idea was that this building should not have the appearance of a hospital. You should not have the feeling that you are entering a hospital. When designing a hospital you must take into account practical things like: easy to clean, and security first. For the Zaans Medical Centre it wasn’t any different, because those are the requirements. But in our design these appear not as obviously. We designed it more as a public building that rather gives visitors the feeling of standing in a theatre lobby, than in a hospital.

What makes a hospital building caring?
In our design for the Zaans Medical Centre we tried to avoid stress moments. People are reluctant to go the hospital. They have to because they are ill or need care. Just before entering the hospital they already have a certain level of stress. People also have a lot of stress when they sit in the waiting room, just before they are called in by a doctor. An architect can think of ways that positively distract them to reduce the stress. For the Zaans Medical Centre we choose to work with graphic art. Together with the designers of the Silo Studio in The Hague, a graphic art design was created that showed drawings on the walls. The drawings show people directions but they also add a feeling of astonishment to the building. The visitor enters a public hall that is three levels high and they experience surprise because of an enormous drawing of a human body. The drawing refers to medical science. But if you look closer, you will see things that characterise the Zaanstreek (the region that surrounds the city of Zaandam), like traditional houses and elements of shipbuilding. This is a funny distraction. The first impression is: “Look, what is this extraordinary drawing?” And not: “Oh, there is the bell and there is the waiting room where I have to be at a specified time.”

As an architect, do you think in terms of these themes?
I think strongly in terms of orientation and daylight. People must immediately understand where they are and where they have to go. I think it is important that an architect ensures that at the entrance of a building people see daylight, both at their right and left side. They should notice immediately where the elevator is, and understand immediately how the building is put together. Daylight is a must. My rule of thumb is: never create a waiting room that has no daylight. You must be able to experience the weather when you are inside the building. It reassures and eases the feeling of stress. Daylight also helps orientation. Sometimes we cannot avoid making an indoor hallway. Then we make sure that there will be an outside view at the end of the hallway, so people always walk towards daylight. If that is not possible, we will take care that at the end of the hallway there will be an orientation point with a lot of artificial light. There should always be a focal point at the destination towards which someone walks.

As an architect, how do you explore these aspects, when designing a building like the Zaans Medical Centre?
By talking a lot with the people who will work in the new hospital: the nurses, the doctors, the social workers, the volunteers. They are all experts who have a lot of information from their experience. During the design process we talked very intensively for two years, with different user groups. For healthcare projects, it is especially important to listen to the users.

Does colour play an important role in the design of a health care building?
When choosing a colour, for example when finishing floors, walls and ceilings, you have to consider a good balance of stimulants. It should not be too boring, so not only white. But too exuberant is not good either. When designing a nursing home for elderly people, these are pitfalls to be aware of.

What pitfalls?
For a large floor with a rubber or marmoleum finish, it is better to create an even-colour. Not a finish with a dark patch suddenly popping up. People who cannot see well, or people who have difficulties interpreting stimulants, would think that they are about to fall into a hole. People who suffer from dementia are also quite sensitive to that. With bright primary colours you can make mistakes. People who suffer from dementia do not know how to deal with those colours.

So be careful with bright primary colours?
That is correct. In nursing homes you often see a lot of pastel colours. They are softer and easier for people to understand. Furthermore, creating contrast in the design is important. A white door in a white frame in a white wall, is difficult for people suffering from dementia. They often have difficulty in understanding that it is a door. It is better to have the frame in a darker colour so that they know: “That’s where I need to walk.”

Does location play an important role in the caring qualities of a building? Zaans Medical Centre is near a busy motorway.
The Zaans Medical Centre is at the end of the A7 motorway from Purmerend to Zaandam. The location was a given. They own the ground there and we can’t change that. The original commission was to create a hospital on the location that is exactly opposite where the new centre is located now. Plus, a parking facility was to be created at the front side of the hospital, facing the city. During the competition we immediately told them: “We want to turn it around.” The hospital should face the city so you immediately enter the hospital coming from the city and not from the motorway. The hospital building presents itself to Zaandam and looks away, so to speak, from the motorway.

Was it important for you and your team to turn the hospital away from the noise?
Certainly. Our design also has a clear kink. It has a simple form. Strictly speaking it is a long-drawn indoor street surrounded with building space. This makes it an all-sided building. It doesn’t have a front or a backside. By creating a kink facing the city, we tried to create a feeling of welcome, a gesture showing that this is where I have to be. It is simple in structure but it works.

And what happened to the surroundings of the new hospital building?
The current hospital was demolished. A new residential area will be built on that spot. That will transform the hospital from an institution at the skirts of the city, to a building that is integrated in a residential quarter. It will be integrated in society so to speak. The ultimate goal for a hospital is no longer to be seen as an institutional building, a fortress where you have to pass through a gate to get there. No, the hospital is just part of society.

What trends are expected regarding the caring qualities of a building?
I expect the institutional character of a hospital will disappear. I think we will see less and less of the large hospital, where you first have to drive to a parking place and then enter the building. Healthcare will be integrated more in the normal street scene. The healthcare building will develop into a sort of shop. There will always be a central building with operating rooms and intensive care. These don’t fit in a shop. But around these central rooms is a layer with nursing rooms and out-patient clinics. Why create all this into a large institute? For the caring character of a building you need to make the building easily accessible so that entering a hospital is less stressful. It is not about individual colours or materials, but about the whole appearance of the building. If you look at a nursing home from the sixties for example, you will immediately notice that it is a nursing home. I don’t think that is a good thing. You shouldn’t have the feeling that you live in a nursing home, but in a residential building, that happens to have the care that you need.

Photography: Mecanoo/Thijs Wolzak

Dutch Fashion Design- Moofers Clothing

For Dutch fashion designer, Jennifer van Haastert, quality and craftsmanship are key to her label, Moofers Clothing. Her designs are contemporary and are always with a small twist. Fashion lovers can see her designs in Moofers & Art Salon, housed in a beautiful 19th century building, on the Toussaintkade in The Hague. For POM Magazine, Anke Verbeek paid a visit to the salon to meet the friendly Jennifer for an interview.

By Anke Verbeek

You started your Moofers Clothing label in 2017. Did you know how the concept of Moofers should be from the start?
No, I just wanted to create fashion. My feelings about fashion transformed gradually into a vision. Moofers stands for sustainability. Our clothes are designed to last because they are well-made and the materials are so beautiful. At Moofers, there is the time and space to share with customers the story behind my designs.

What role does sustainability play in the Moofers collection?
It takes a lot of craftsmanship, before a collection is available in a store. That’s why I think fast fashion, so silly. You can enjoy a beautiful design for years, as long as it is made well with a quality fabric. With every collection we try to become more sustainable.

How would you describe the style of Moofers Clothing?
The designs are contemporary with an edge and with the focus on quality and details. It’s a cool, feminine look that you can wear every day. Please wear it a lot. That is what I am designing for. Don’t leave it in your closet.

How do you create your collections?
Seasons became less important for my collections. Each collection matches with the previous one. I just add new designs to existing ones to create a capsule collection. On Moofers’ Instagram there is a picture in which the model wears a leather skirt. It is a design from two years ago. I combined that skirt with a new knitwear design. I want to show that this sweater fits beautifully with the skirt that some clients have had for a while.

What is Moofers’ target group?
I design for people aged 30 years old and above, yet my customers are women aged between 17 and 80. When I just started Moofers, I had many international customers. People who have recently moved to The Hague or who are on holiday here, wander around and discover shops that recently opened. Now, people from The Hague and the rest of the Netherlands have also discovered Moofers.

Do you involve your target audience in the design process?
I like it when people take the time to try on the clothes so I can see how they fit, and which model suits a customer best. The reactions of customers inspire me. A few months ago a customer asked me whether I had something in pinstripe. That immediately gave me the idea to design something in pinstripe, but only with a perfect pinstripe flannel. If I don’t find the right material, the deal is off.

What makes a fabric the perfect pinstripe flannel for example?
The story behind the textiles makes the difference. I received samples from a British cloth manufacturer and they radiate craftsmanship. These fabrics have been produced in the UK for decades. I am fascinated by textiles.That’s where the inspiration often starts for me.

Moofers is fashion but also a salon. What’s the role of art in Moofers Fashion & Art Salon?
I think it is important that different disciplines strengthen each other. Behind a painting or a piece of jewellery, is a person who created it with passion and vision. Like fashion, it takes a lot of craftsmanship. I found a location where there is enough space to bring everything together. In this beautiful salon, fashion and art strengthen each other.

How did you let all those voices speak in one space?
The building in which Moofers is housed is a national monument. Therefore we are not allowed to change the colours or decorations in the house. They are not easy to combine. We looked for curtains and furniture that match those colours and the atmosphere of the space. We have jewellery by Moniek Postma and they are large and extravagant. The paintings by Moos Willemsen are quieter. That combination works well. In my fashion designs, there is also a lot of contrast. It shouldn’t be boring.

What makes Moofers a salon?
Of course, Moofers is still a shop, but we thought the label “salon” fits with the historic building and what we want to achieve with Moofers. It emphasizes taking the time to experience the things we show in the salon. We hope to inspire our customers with the fashion and art we present here.




Can you tell a little bit about the next collection?
For the upcoming collection we use pinstripe flannel from England and fabrics woven in the Netherlands by Enschede Textielstad. There will be coats of recycled denim and high-waist jeans of organic cotton. In pinstripe there will be jackets that can be combined with a straight leg trouser. Also in pinstripe are the baggy shorts. You can wear them with high heels but also with boots if you want a more casual look. The knitwear is made of organic cotton or alpaca. The tank tops and T-shirts can be excellently combined with the high-waist jeans and pinstripe designs. In the salon, we want to organise small events like little music concerts, collection launches, lectures and workshops. So a calendar full of creation and craftsmanship. www.moofersclothing.nl

Photography: Merel Oenema
Fashion photography: Annick Meijer

The Stomach of The Hague

Somewhere in The Hague, sandwiched between Herman Costerstraat en De Heemstraat, in the district of De Schilderswijk, is a hidden enclave surrounded by fences. It evokes a feeling of borders, as if it is a mini country within a city. Four days a week the borders of the enclave open from 09:00 to 17:00. People readily make use of that. On average 35.000 people visit on such a day. It is called de Haagse Markt (The Hague Market), the largest market in The Netherlands and one of the largest in Europe.

But does that mean that this is typical of The Hague? No. If you find yourself in any market in Amsterdam, there is no doubt in which city you are in. But this market could be situated anywhere. Here Suriname is next to Turkey. One street further away, the medina flows seamlessly into the Toko. The Volendam fish shop is next to a booth loaded with Mediterranean goodies. Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts lie side-by-side with the papayas and tajer. This multicultural place has been popularly referred to as The Stomach (De Maag), from the very beginning: exotic fruit was already available there in 1920. Up until 1938 The Stomach was located much closer to the city centre, De Prinsegracht. Because of the increasing traffic, the market had to move to the current location. In 2015 the market had a turbulent time, an extreme make-over full of the agony of renovation and relocations. So what has changed? It is not a mishmash of 500 booths, containers and trailers anymore. Now there are permanent booths, all in the same style. A solid roof prevents visitors receiving an unexpected splash of rainwater on their neck due to the sagging little canvases. The wide aisles with little gutters in the middle make the difference. There is less of a hold-up, and less of a chance to clash with somebody’s mobile scooter or shopping trolley. No more wading through melting water while standing in fish shop queue. Plus, the digital payer doesn’t need to look for an ATM, outside the market, although there are still booths where paying cash is the rule. However, the permanent residents of the enclave haven’t changed. They give the typical couleur locale that makes you forget that their booths resemble shops now. They come from families that have been selling on the market for generations, and eventually, seem to be happy with their new lockable shops. In any case, displaying and cleaning up is a lot faster.

Although the market has much more to offer, food dominates. If there is a common language in this market then it is the universal language of food. After all, everybody has to eat. In case of an acute snack attack, a world opens for the stomach: from Turkish pizza to French fries, from fried fish to Vietnamese spring rolls, and from samosas to meatball sandwiches. People from many nationalities and walks of life, go to the market. Some for daily groceries, others for curtain fabric, new clothing, a day trip or just for Friday fish. The social code of conduct feels almost rustic. People who, outside the market, would never meet, let alone talk with each other, stand together, wondering which dates will taste the best. As a visitor you are bound to see products you are not familiar with. Just ask. If the salesperson is too busy, nine times out of ten, a fellow customer volunteers to be a source of information. Sometimes with tips and recipes you wouldn’t find in any cookbook.

Of course The Stomach is not a Walhalla. Like anywhere else you have to watch your bag and sometimes there are quarrels and irritations. If you don’t like people squeezing themselves to your left and right to reach the busy booths, then you are better off staying far away from the market. But generally the spirit of tolerance and respect is everywhere. If having dinner together brings fraternisation, then buying food at The Stomach of The Hague comes second. The Stomach’s new style fits the needs of today’s spoiled consumers, but its atmosphere is familiar and has something for everyone. Whether you are there: on a gourmet safari, scoring your daily meal, just want to do some fun-shopping or to enjoy the place. A visit to this three football-field-wide part of Schilderswijk, feels like a trip to another town. Wherever that town may be.

Text: Anne van de Heiden
Photography: Jasmijn Schrofer and Polly Parker

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