A design that has it all
Designing the new premises for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague (Netherlands) isn’t your average job: not only had the ICC a set of key values that it wanted taken into account, but the building also had to embody the spirit of international cooperation and reflect the willingness of 123 countries to establish an independent court which tries people accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Alongside the necessity to strike a balance between security and transparency, given the ICC’s involvement in very sensitive issues, there was also the typical Dutch dune landscape to consider. However, the international Danish firm schmidt hammer lassen architects successfully factored in all these aspects. They took on the challenge, were selected out of a hundred other architect firms around the world in an international competition, and finally designed an incredibly beautiful landmark.
|project:||International Criminal Court|
|architect:||schmidt hammer lassen architects|
|location:||Den Haag (the Netherlands)|
|surface area:||10,000 m2|
|year of completion:||2015|
|Mosa collection:||Terra Maestricht|
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‘We incorporated the ICC’s wishes into our architectural and landscape design in many ways,’ says Denis Olette, architect, ICC project director, and director of schmidt hammer lassen architects in London. He continues: ‘First of all, we wanted to reunite the old site of former Dutch army barracks with the rolling dunes surrounding it by incorporating the six buildings, each built to a different height, into this natural environment. The transparent centre is the Court Tower, the heart of the organization, where the surrounding greenery connects to the courtyard garden as a symbol of unity. Secondly, we wanted to create a building that has a sculptural quality in the landscape, functioning as a work of art embedded in its environment, if you like. Taken as a whole, it has a very dynamic, powerful, and pleasing presence.’
Unique tiles that bring everything together
‘The Mosa tiles we used – the 216 V and 216 XT Terra Maestricht – also enabled us to enhance the connections that are visible throughout the premises. We used the tiles on the ground floor inside as well as outdoors. Their high quality, consistent colour, and large size (measuring 60 x 60 centimeters) create a serene, tranquil effect and also add to the spacious character of the building. Furthermore, we were impressed by Mosa’s commitment and customer focus. They had to produce thick exterior tiles that could be laid on sand, without sacrificing aesthetics. However, we knew they could pull it off, as we’ve collaborated with Mosa on projects in the past and value their contribution.’
Strong democratic values
‘Because projects such as these are long and complex processes, it’s important to collaborate effectively – and preferably as soon as possible. When we found out that we had won the competition, we were happy to hear that our design perfectly reflected the ICC’s criteria of transparency, fairness, trust, respect, and democracy. It was a match made in heaven, as these same values are anchored in Danish architectural design as well as in our firm’s philosophy. We recognized ourselves in the ICC’s briefing, and vice versa. Besides, it’s a very comprehensive design, being the product of a careful process of consultation that involves listening, making the client feel at ease, and being willing to adjust your design to the client’s requirements. It’s all about effective collaboration and establishing mutual trust and respect. Of course, while architectural design is a form of art, it’s ultimately about designing a functional building that meets users’ requirements. This is one of our strong selling points, if I may say so: the process of engaging with the end user. I believe this factor should be one of the driving forces behind the design.’