Smalle Haven, Eindhoven
The Vesteda Tower
The embedding of the Smalle Haven architectural ensemble at the centre of Eindhoven has culminated in the realization of the Vesteda Tower. Architectural and architectonic expressions coincide here and reinforce one another. The Tower is literally and figuratively an exclamation mark that dominates its environment and lends it character. In architectonic terms, this is strengthened by the choice of material and the finishing of the façade, which give the building a monolithic allure. It is a 'timeless' but forceful gesture in the city. The tower makes its presence felt from many perspectives, furnishing not only Smalle Haven but also the City of Eindhoven with a new focal point.
The road to this final goal was a long one and was not free of obstacles. From the tightness of the available space at ground level, the Tower was able to develop during a design period lasting around two years into an ingeniously engineered edifice in which construction, installation, and technology were blended into a simple, pure and structural architecture.
After a number of basic geometrical forms had been investigated, it became increasingly evident during the preliminary architectural phase that the Tower could assume the construction orientation of both the Medina apartment complex and the Vestdijk. The diamond form, as a footprint, turned out to be the ideal figure for this and became the basis for further development. Due to urban design considerations, the height of the Vesteda Tower was established in the zoning plan at ninety metres. The offices for the market were planned to be accommodated in the plinth of the Tower, in the first five storeys, and would be connected to those of the Colonnade, the round adjoining construction on the Zonnewijzerplein. Above this there would be 22 standard apartment floors with two apartments per storey. And at the top there would be two penthouses that would occupy the top two floors. The choice of two apartments per storey was inevitable due to the limited footprint. Vesteda, in the person of Huub Smeets consistently challenged us to give the Tower a unique allure. Trying to realize this objective required exceptionally motivated endeavour on the part of all parties involved.
The design had two phases with fundamentally differing construction principles. The extreme length-width ratio demanded special construction considerations. In the first variant, the starting point was to develop a free floor plan with a load-bearing façade that would also function as a constructive stabilization. The façade was a continuous concrete shell in which the possible window openings were determined by the static restrictions this construction imposed. All the window openings had to be equipped with low spandrels. The fact that it was not possible to have façade openings stretching from the floor to the ceiling was particularly annoying, especially to Huub Smeets. He continued to advocate more transparency.
At the same time, in this first phase, the low-rise construction (the Colonnade) was still directly connected like a plinth to the high-rise building. In view of the desired layout variants in the five lower storeys, and the architecture-driven wish to link the Zonnewijzerplein at the foot of the Towre of the Vestdijk by means of a public passageway, a complex system of entrance and access was necessary. The decision to simplify this situation was reasonably obvious from an architectural standpoint, but it had great consequences for the office section. The Tower and the Colonnade had to be cut free of one another. Each section had to have its own entrance, and the three office layers in the Colonnade had to be divided from those in the lower storeys of the Tower. The problem of the passageway was also solved, and the offices in the Colonnade were assigned their own profile and address on the Vestdijk.
This rigorous solution was conceived, agreed and sanctioned in a consultation session with Ton van Daal and Huub Smeets in our office one afternoon. This is a typical example of interaction in which direct contact between the customer and the architect leas to a creative solution that none of the parties would have come up with on their own. In this particular case, it involved the programmatic claim on the one side and the wish to realize a continuous façade on the Zonnewijzerplein, on the other.
The principle of the enhanced openness of the façade necessitated a new construction principle, this time with a central concrete stabilizing core. In principle, the floors rest on a column grid in the façade. As a result, the triangular forms of the apartments (the 'half-diamond') could remain free of columns and the façade openings could be freely chosen. The grid of verticals (columns) and horizontals (floors) is directly recognizable in the façade structure. It has been treated differently in the west façade than in the east façade, in connection with the position of the desired balcony.
At the position of the loggia in the west façade, the columns are exposed. For this reason, they are round and, in conjunction with the shadow effect of the loggia's, they ensure an expressive west façade. On the east side, the columns are rectangular and, along with the floor edges that lie in the same plane, they form an orthogonal grid which is filled with glass displaying a wood print. This has replaced the wooden parts desired by Vesteda which could not be applied at such heights due to building-physical and material-technical reasons. Both façade structures fuse together with the glass curves and the floor edges at the north and south ends of the building. The massive concrete core places the building firmly on the ground on both long facades, and spans a crown over the building at the top, emphasizing its unity.
In terms of materialization, an attempt has been made to allow the building to radiate durability and quality. The façade is coated with Muschel limestone: a natural stone with a beautiful warmly nuanced brown-grey tone and natural pattern. It has been sanded and sawn along the grain, emphasizing the verticality of the Tower. Prepatined titanium zinc has been applied where the concrete elements in the façade are protected against heating by means of a ventilating hollow. With the round columns, the air flow between the concrete columns and the titanium zinc coating is also the space where rainwater from the façade is carried away vertically. This channel is fed by the protruding floor edges, with a profile on the top, which function as horizontal gutters. A wooden membrane façade with aluminum glass slats on the outside and pinewood parts on the inside bring ambience to the interior and maintenance-free finishing to the exterior. In conjunction with natural ventilation via ceiling grids and a combined underfloor heating/cooling system, strong sunresistant glass, based on the latest technology and as transparent and colorless as possible, ensures a pleasant living climate in the apartments.
Working in a construction team during the design process clearly bore fruit in the evolution of the finishing. The malleability of the construction, the aesthetics and the durability were constantly sharply evaluated in a process in which the fundamental attitude of Vesteda regarding the choices to be made was not only dictated by aspects of returns and time, but was also integrally reviewed in all its facets. No impulsive decisions were made, everything was investigated down to the finest detail.
The chosen construction principle enabled the flexible floor plan that Vesteda passionately desired. Eight layout variants turned out to be possible within the contours of the basic floor plan. This being the case, the wishes of the tenants can be accommodated and these give the apartments individuality and exclusiveness. In addition, a gym and a number of shortstay apartments have been realized on the fourth storey instead of the originally planned office floor.
With their double height, the penthouses on the 26th and 27th storeys give a particularly majestic view of the city centre of Eindhoven that lies at one's feet, visualizing the Tower's embedding in the city.
The Vesteda Tower, our first high-rise apartment block, has immediately become a gem where neither cost nor effort have been spared in allocating metropolitan identity to this location at the heart of Eindhoven.