Our colleagues from Aartsen Belgium, have something to look forward to. Halfway through 2024, the new Aartsen branch opens in St. Katelijne-Waver. It will be twice the size of our present office at the existing site. With a new location also comes innovation, and architects Jaap Bekkers and Jan Geysen explain the six biggest highlights of their ambitious design plans.
Doubling in size doesn't mean that the latest location will consume twice as much electricity. Jan: 'We took a very critical look at energy demands. With the help of an expert in industrial construction, we thoroughly calculated how to keep the energy requirement as low as possible. For example, the warehouse will have a lowered roof level. This way, we reduce the number of cubic meters that permanently have to be cooled there." Jaap: 'By insulating the warehouses efficiently, the cooling installations at St. Katelijne-Waver are smaller than in Breda and Venlo, and the whole building is engineered so that energy consumption is economically justified and efficient.'
Jaap and Jan have previously been involved in Aartsen's construction projects and are already familiar with internal business processes. For the enormous workplace of St. Katelijne-Waver, everything has once again been examined and questioned down to minor details. Jaap: "We have incorporated all the logistical and functional aspects into a newly designed layout. Where will the trucks dock, and via which routes? Where do the staff and customers come in? Where are the cash and carry and offices located? And what does that mean for fire safety? We metaphorically moved through every Aartsen's departments during the planning process to ensure we left no stone unturned.'
Jan: 'One revision always followed up one of the improvements in these discussions, and in this aspect, even if the design plans had to be adjusted again, Aartsen takes enough time to dot the i's and cross the t's.'
Our starting point for the design was always: how can we create the best structure where everyone can do their best work and bring their A-game?
Jaap: "In St. Katelijne Waver, once again, a top priority was exceptional employee facilities. At first, we thought we could accommodate all office functions and staff facilities on two levels. Later on, we decided to add a third layer. Now, they'll have a staff restaurant, a gym and a rooftop terrace! All facilities are for both warehouse and office employees. The staff floor is also the cherry on top of this project. We mixed very subtle but still distinct concrete textures to finish the facade, and we feel it's the distinguished second layer of the building. Again the emphasis is on Aartsen wanting the best for its people by dedicating this to the team. The company asks a lot of them, but they also get plenty in return."
As is typical in most offices, you won't find carpet tiles, painted walls and a suspended ceiling in the new location. The offices in the new site are anything but boring! In St. Katelijne-Waver, they exude the same industrial atmosphere as the warehouses. With concrete floors and open ceilings, the pipes and climate control systems remain visible for a bold and authentic industrial look.
Jan: 'All these techniques have an aesthetic that we believe fits the identity and no-nonsense personality of Aartsen. By adding wood and plants, the spaces radiate warmth.'
The international drivers and customers for our Cash & Carry station have also been considered. They can enjoy a coffee in a specially designed indoor truck stop, and there will be sanitary facilities with which Aartsen, as a company, sets a new standard.
Jaap: 'The management is fantastic, and as architects, we were repeatedly confronted with how special this company truly is.'
The complex is built in a beautiful high-profile location near the Rijksweg 6 and will attract attention because of its grand appearance.
Jan: 'You hire an architect to design a space, and they can easily obtain building permits. But it's much rarer when an architect is hired to add architectural value to such a building, and we feel blessed to have been hired to do just that.''
Jaap: 'We get the freedom to use traditional building materials uniquely so that you will have a building that distinguishes itself from the rest. For example, the window cavities in the prefab concrete office facades arise from the functional requirements of the spaces behind them. This leads to an idiosyncratic composition in the facade, and form meets function. The sheds are finished with standard sandwich panels in a matt brushed aluminium finish, creating a "soft" counterpart to the hard concrete. This facade finish reflects the surroundings' colour and softens the building's largeness.''
Jan: 'Aartsen offered us the opportunity, time and confidence to develop these solutions, and we came up with a way to turn an industrial building, with all the standard requirements, into something unique. That makes an assignment like this just as attractive and challenging as designing a villa.''
Jaap Bekkers is a partner at Grosfeld Bekkers Van der Velde Architects in Breda. Jan Geysen is the owner of Puur Interieurarchitecten in Antwerp. Together they are responsible for the design of Aartsen's head office in Breda. Grosfeld Bekkers Van der Velde Architects in Breda also designed the Aartsens Venlo office. Puur Interieurarchitecten created the lunch zone in Aartsen Venlo and the offices in Hong Kong.