A single ‘front door’ for employees, politicians, administrators and visitors: that was the brief from the province of Gelderland. Previously housed across five different locations the provincial government now has a single hub for people to meet and work together: Gelders Huis. VolkerWessels is responsible for every stage of the project under a Design, Build, Maintain & Operate (DBMO) contract – from the design and execution to the 20-year management and operation of the building.
Overlooking the market square of Arnhem, the new home of the provincial government is a unique combination of historical allure and modern architecture. The existing Provincial Hall is a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ dating from 1954 and a listed monument. The interior of the building has been completely renovated whilst maintaining a keen eye for the 20th-century look and feel. It stands between the medieval Sabelspoort gate and a brand-new building, an unusual design that won the award for Building of the Year 2018.
Gelders Huis is a real group project, realised by the In Domu Nova consortium consisting of four VolkerWessels companies. Sister companies Wessels Rijssen and Visser & Smit Bouw were responsible for the newbuild and for renovating the national monument. HOMIJ realised the technical installations and is responsible for management and maintenance during the operational phase. PCH Dienstengroep handles matters including facilities management, residual waste management, cleaning, window-cleaning, service desk, green areas, pest control, winter maintenance and security outside office hours.
The air cushion system above the courtyard; the four glass air bridges linking the buildings; the sleek bamboo flooring, huge windows and impressive atriums. The new provincial government house has many eye-catching features, but Vera Mol is able to look beyond all that. Before building work even started the Gelders Huis facility manager was already able to envisage the users moving around the building. “We were involved from an early stage in order to plan the technical management, maintenance and services down to the last detail: from coffee cups, towel machines and sockets to cleaning the windows using cherry pickers and the choice of materials.” For example the team had samples of the bamboo flooring made so that they could choose the best finish: “We spilled coffee, dropped coins and walked across it in high heels. By testing in this way we were able to make a considered choice between a varnish and an oil finish.” The team also worked with the architect to look at how to clean certain materials such as the signature blue steel. “It looks great but it’s very difficult to clean,” explains Vera. “In the end we had an artist treat the blue steel with special paint so that it still looks the same but is easy to maintain.”
What Vera enjoys most about her job is working with other people and learning from each other, both internally with other VolkerWessels companies and with the client. "Working with the client enables me to see things even more clearly from the user’s perspective. From the builders I learned all sorts of practical things about the complexity of the building process and all that is involved in the renovation of a listed building. In return they learned from us how to interact well with users, find out what wishes and needs they have and how to communicate in a customer-focused way."