The design for the communications heart of NATO, the NCIA building in The Hague, for client Bouwcombinatie NCIA, is – just like the agency itself – all about delivering a clear message. Transparency, as in all good communication, is key. Here, we replace roofs with glass and create two luminous, light-filled atria, complete with lush green gardens and varied social spaces. NATO’s identity, meanwhile, is clearly yet subtly expressed in the ceramic façade elements, where its famous star motif adds style, as well as significance.
Rijksvastgoedbedrijf & MVSA Architects for Bouwcombinatie NCIA: Boele & van Eesteren | Visser & Smit Bouw
24,500 m2: new: 11,000 m2, renovation: 13,500 m2
NCIA is the ICT services provider and communications supporter of NATO. The agency is all about hardware and software. It builds part of the hardware itself, and ensures delivery of ready-to-use systems to clients. It trains future users and lends remote support in the form of help desks. In addition, it provides services in the field of telephony and satellite communications. Finally, NCIA develops, realizes and tests systems, often in the form of modelling and computer simulation. All of this means that NCIA a major consumer is of ICT networks and systems. Nevertheless, we avoid a sterile, high-tech look for one that emphasizes light, greenery and interaction – a humanized take on networks and communication.
The agency had run out of space in its existing 13,500 m² building in The Hague, which was also in need of a radical renovation. The design adds one extra floor as well as an entirely new section at the front of the facility. The additions almost double the existing floorspace with an extra 11,000 m². At the same time, the site is being expanded and more parking spaces added. MVSA Architects is responsible for both the exterior and the interior, building on the draft design of the Dutch Rijksvastgoedbedrijf (the Central Government Real Estate Agency). Liaising closely with the Rijksvastgoedbedrijf architects, MVSA achieves an ambitious architectural level.
We avoid a sterile, high-tech look for one that emphasizes daylight, greenery and interaction - a humanized take on networks and communication
While the renovation will add freshness to the façades, roofs, building installations and furnishings, the extension will give the building an entirely new and high-level image, befitting a player on the international stage. The new construction includes the two lofty, light-filled atria housing the entrance and restaurant, plus a conference center and sports facilities in the basement. A transparent glass construction wraps the roofs and atrium façades to spectacular effect.
The project called for a high-profile look, reflecting the status of NATO and the international standing of the Netherlands. This was achieved by making the tops of the atria completely transparent, to the extent of using glass beams to support the glass rooftops. Lucid and luminous, the beautiful, barely-there design draws the eye and frames unbroken views of the sky, while flooding the space with daylight. Flawless detailing throughout adds to the perception of quality. In the interior, color adds impact and warmth. As a final Dutch touch, images from the Dutch masters have been incorporated into the wall finishes and carpets.
Given the work of the NCIA and the sensitivity of the information it handles, optimal security is essential. In realizing this aspect of the design, we were able to draw on our previous projects for the Ministries of Defense and Finance, which have similarly stringent requirements.
The NCIA is divided into transparent public areas and more closed secure zones. The public spaces are the atria and the entrance areas. Beyond these, security zoning is structured into five zones, arranged as concentric rings throughout the building. Other essential aspects were ICT security and acoustics. To ensure optimum performance in these, specialist advisers were added to the team at an early stage.
The extremely tight schedule is based on design/build. MVSA Architects worked out an innovative Big BIM model with the partners.