Brick Panels


Kollhoff Architekten, Ministerio del Interior y Ministerio de Justicia, La Haya

During the late 1980s, the German architect Hans Kollhoff designed and carried out works of great material force, among them Piraeus – a vast flexing brick apartment block located in one of the dockland sites of Amsterdam – and the ascetic mass housing blocks in reunited Berlin. That he has maintained the modular rigor and emphatic expressivity which characterized these developments is evident in this project that brings together the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the Ministry of Security and Justice of the Netherlands. The complex is executed, like the works mentioned above, with a combination of incorruptible modular logic and solid classical materials.

Situated in The Hague, seat of the Dutch government and headquarters of the International Court of Justice, the building is currently the city’s tallest structure, distributing its double ministerial program in twin towers rising thirty-six floors in slightly over 145 meters. Connected by a ten-story base covered with a close-jointed greenish-gray granite surface, the towers resonate with one another in form through their faceted volumetric compositions and a shared calligraphic finish, but contrast with each other in the materials they are clad in: light gray Italian granite in one case, and bright red, richly variegated Wittmund-type clinker in the other. The choice of geometry and material for the towers wasn’t casual, the architect’s intention having been to align the building with the aesthetics of the first crop of skyscrapers to go up in America towards the end of the 19th century.

The envelopes of the two towers are formed by precast concrete-backed panels which have been fixed to the loadbearing structure in such a way that the thermal insulation system is placed behind it. The vertical joint that the panels form when they come in contact with the two pilasters flanking them is concealed by a supplementary module made of the same material, which juts out slightly from the plane of the facade, creating the delicate play of light and shadow that gives nuance to the otherwise simple volumes of the towers.

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