LEVS Binck Blocks web 4

Binck Blocks

Vertical neighbourhoods in an urban ecosystem

Binck Blocks, The Hague

The Binckhorst business park in The Hague is being transformed into a sustainable neighbourhood for working and living. LEVS designed a nature-inclusive residential tower that functions as a vertical neighbourhood. This crowned volume of stacked blocks combines an industrial with a natural aesthetic. Its dynamic arrangement accentuates the diversity in human and non-human communities that can live here. We have made space for residents at different stages in life. A family block contains a children’s playground while a quieter block has access to a large rooftop dune landscape with views over the city. The Binck Blocks form a tree of life where people, animals, insects and plants can climb up from root to crown.

Binckhorst as a residential neighbourhood

Arriving to The Hague via the A12 ringway, you will find the raw and industrial Binckhorts business park on your left. It is strategically located between city centre and the direct surrounding economic region. For a residential area too, these are excellent conditions. The city of The Hague decided to redevelop the area and create a new entrance to the city. A testcase for sustainable urban development. Our plan for a sustainable and green residential tower is one of the first to be developed. Together with a large team of advisers, constructors, specialists, investors and real-estate agents, VORM vastgoed, Flux landscape architects and LEVS made the winning plan.

Ending anonymity

The Hague has many characteristic sides, such as the small houses of working-class neighbourhood Schilderswijk and the stately mansions in Bezuidenhout. Residents typically identify with their neighbourhood. And inside neighbourhoods exist even smaller communities of residents that meet and live around squares, playgrounds and other local sites. Towers, on the other hand, are often seen as incongruent with this kind of community feeling. As anonymous volumes, unfit for family life or diversity of activity directly around the home. By transporting the idea of a neighbourhood with local diversity into the layout of the tower, we have managed to wrap the comfort of a familiar street scene in a vertical jacket. We divided the volume in blocks of recognisable scale, containing around thirty apartments, and coupled them to a variety of collective spaces. This tight-knit and small-scale group of communities, our Binck Blocks, contributes to building an inclusive city.

The Binck Blocks has been designed for those urban pioneers who dare to move into this industrious area on the outer bounds of the city. It is a tower for the young and old ‘urban creatives’ and professionals, the atypical families and non-traditional elderly. Different neighbourhood-typologies come together and become nature-inclusive hubs, through a mix of children-oriented parks and work-oriented collective spaces.

Nature-inclusivity

Including nature in a plan produces a range of benefits. Plants collect and filter fine dust particles, green facades mitigate heat stress and plants generally contribute to the experience of wellbeing with residents. Public green spaces enable outdoor recreation, improving health and social cohesion. Plants and flowers along the outside of the bundling will attract birds, insects and bats. Considering nature and city as part of a natural symbiosis can create new ecological cycles. Thinking of a building as an ecosystem helps translate biodiversity questions into concrete design solutions. In our approach, biodiversity and building melt together in a hybrid form that is truly nature-inclusive.

The Hague-style tower with a Binckhorst touch

In its architecture, the tower marries the history of the Binckhorst site with The Hague-style high-rise. An industrial grid of metal profiles, glass and red lead colour determine the character of the facade. The colour was inspired by typical Binckhorst buildings that used to exist here, such as the Fokker Terminal. These steel boxes are a common sight in this industrial district. Stacked in an apparently random way, their arrangement takes into account sun and wind to optimise collective outdoor green spaces. Variations in the material arrangement of the facade further differentiate the stacked blocks. From aluminium and bronze panels to glass grids. Windows from floor to ceiling give the apartments a metropolitan touch. The ground floor is marked by a particular articulation of the columns and by its transparency. The top is crowned by a prominent frame that extends over multiple floors, resembling half-timbered framing. It adds an industrial touch that fits in with building traditions in The Hague. The tower will come to function as an industrial marker to the city’s new entrance.

Intelligent construction

Thanks to our early-stage collaboration with the facade-builder, all facade elements will be made completely modular and therefore circular. The casco too will be prefabricated in concrete, accelerating the construction time. In the floors, prefabricated constructive elements and installation work are separated, which will ensure flexibility in the future.

Community blocks

The stacked ‘blocks’ function as self-contained residential neighbourhoods, yet interweave in the larger context of the tower. A mix of varied private spaces, collective spaces, a roof park shared by the entire tower and a public plinth gives every resident the opportunity to switch environments according to their needs. Each concept for a collective space in the Binck Blocks builds on the specific neighbourhood characteristics of the block and on those of the surrounding landscape, in this case that of a Dutch coastal city. The architectural design of the various communities and their green sites give the neighbourhoods their own identity and the tower as a whole a dynamic sparkle.

The playground block is perhaps the tower’s most distinct neighbourhood. A family neighbourhood with a proper playground area inside the tower, around which the indoor facades resemble a real street-profile. Here, regular family-homes with separate bedroom- and living room floors have garden-doors that open up to the inner courtyard, overlooking the playground. A technical solution in the floor makes it possible for mature trees to stand in deep soils.

The urban block, with its green balconies that attract bees and birds has more direct contact to the surrounding neighbourhood. Its collective space connects to shops on the ground floor. Functions in the plinth create liveliness at street-level and interaction with the tower's housing programme.

The park block makes space for urban farming and outdoor recreation on the roof of the car parking. A dedicated ‘insect-hotel,’ sandy areas and dead wood together provide insects with places to hibernate and reproduce. Overlooking the park, the work-block offers views towards the city centre. Nesting opportunities for a variety of birds are integrated in the facade. Calmness and history characterise the dune block, the tower’s true green oasis. Here, the surrounding coastal landscape becomes tangible, visible and audible. Smells are unmistakably The Hague. The outer facades of the block have integrated nesting sites for bats. Their climatological conditions are ideally suited for both summer and winter. The crown block contains spacious and tall loft apartments. A true metropolitan living experience. On top, a shared roof park offers all residents spectacular views over the city, the dunes and the sea.

Binck Blocks

We consciously developed a special sustainable housing and nature-concept for the Binck Blocks, that fits architecturally to the city of The Hague. The strong building has become a fluent whole of visually modest yet systemically thorough design. A vertical combination of biodiverse and urban communities. Humans and other animals, depending on their needs or stages in life, can roam around freely within these vertical neighbourhoods, firmly anchored in the history of the local context.

IMG 1829

Binck Blocks als casestudie op het symposium Den Haag Vastgoed 2019 van SPRYG Real Estate Academy

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LEVS made the design in close collaboration with Flux landscape architecture.

Info

Client
VORM
Design
Adriaan Mout, Jurriaan van Stigt, Marianne Loof
Projectteam
Surya Steijlen, Martijn Tjassens Keiser, Raphael Naef, Mark Gijsbers
Program
31.000 m² nature-inclusive residential tower for approximately 200 apartments in 6 different vertical neighbourhoods, each with a collective space and a commercial ground floor and blurring zone to connect with the neighbourhood
Location
The Hague
Year
2018 –
Partners
Flux landscape architecture (nature inclusivity concept)
Landscape design
FLUX landscape architecture
Artist impressions
Renderings: WAX Architectural Visualizations | Tekeningen natuur inclusiviteit: FLUX landscape architecture