On the site of the former compound feed plant De Heus in Den Bosch, a temporary environment is being created for the city. The Social Label work warehouse is one of the parties that have been chosen to place the site firmly on the map and to enrich the city during the coming ten years. Social Label is a foundation that aims to use the possibilities offered by design to help people on the sidelines of the labour market into employment. Part of the building will be used by Social Label as showroom and office space. The restaurant Van Aken, a component of the foundation, has also made a flying start there. The pink-sprayed room is used for parties, dance nights and all kinds of other cultural activities.
We were asked to come up with a plan to utilize the rest of the building. This should include workshops for Social Label itself, but also other rooms which will be rented out to other creative companies and initiatives.
The plans were not supposed to be too complicated or costly, as the investment has to be written off in ten years. This was rather challenging, but in a way also made it more simple: almost everything was too expensive, so how could we make an addition that was really useful and added value? We decided to focus on taking things away instead of adding them and whatever had to be made had to be extremely simple.
The local council had made the building ready for use, which primarily meant making it wind and watertight and (fire) safe. The municipality’s construction method, securing everything with beams and sheet material, formed the basis for the additions we made. The sheet material was largely removed and replaced by glass, and the new facades are constructed in a similar way. Furthermore we removed a lot of steel from the building (which also yielded something) and we took out parts of the floors in order to create space, light and openness. We used these massive floor beams to make a pair of walkways and stairways.
A number of existing steel towers, former industrial boilers, vessels and/or silos, are maintained and transformed into workspaces. The large building will remain unheated but the smaller workspaces can be individually heated. As such, the big open space becomes a kind of ‘inside-outside space’. The first plans looked simple on paper but were radical in practical terms. After further examination it was discovered that the existing stairways could just as well, or perhaps even better, stay where they are.
The plan is very simple because the building is so large. As many different kinds of users will take up residence in the building it is essential that visitors and users should immediately be able to see how the building works. Instead of a slow, organic growth with smaller tenants gradually using more and more of the building, as is so often the case with this kind of property, we have decided to make one significant change after which the same process can take place but then from one central space and concept, without putting obstacles in the way.
In order to create the central space we have removed two existing brickwork facades that face each other and replaced these with wooden beam glass walls with large beam entrance doors. Wooden floor sections of different levels in the building are removed from top to bottom. The result is a large space in which everyone can come into contact with each other and where small businesses and activities can find and create their own space – a social work centre.