At the Reehorst estate in Driebergen, a wooden cathedral has arisen which completely blends in with its surroundings. The new Triodos Bank branch has an affect on everyone who visits, works on confers here. Peace and quiet, serenity and being one with nature occurs and is present all around. Interior designer Odette Ex: “Its tranquillity is what makes this building breathe.” Triodos Bank, RAU Architects and Ex Interiors worked together on this Gesamtkunstwerk for seven years. Gispen furnished the building and created a fully circular interior, and has done so in close collaboration with furniture builder Het Woud.
Harmony between nature, culture and economy
The Triodos Bank is growing rapidly, which is why the bank has built a new branch on Landgoed De Reehorst, an estate right besides Driebergen-Zeist railway station, where the bank was established forty years ago. In keeping with Triodos' vision, it is a fully sustainable office building. The entire estate has been developed from a vision in which nature, culture and economy should be in absolute harmony with one another. The unique building, which perfectly blends with its surroundings, is the epitome of this vision and was crowned Office Building of the Year at the Architectenweb Awards 2019. The employees of Triodos Bank Netherlands and Triodos Investment Management have been working in their new work environment as of late 2019.
The client’s thoughts
Our wishes for the interior of our new office not only concerned price, but also qualitative requirements in terms of circularity and reuse, service and maintenance as well as implementation. Gispen has proven to be a solid partner in all these areas. Circular thinking and realisation was key to this project. Gispen had a clear plan of action in place for future corrective and preventive furniture maintenance. In addition, the entire delivery and installation process was well thought out: we received a clear communication plan and a tight logistical schedule in advance, and we were in direct contact with the people who carried out the project.
Distinct division of inner and outer ring
In a joint effort, RAU architecten and Ex Interiors developed a design concept for the new, five-storey office building. The large ground floor is semi-public; in addition to a restaurant, there is a meeting centre intended primarily for visitors. The first floor is all about collaboration, where employees can meet up and work on projects together, for example. This collaborative environment is clearly divided into an inner and outer ring; consultation areas are placed in the outer ring, where people feel closely connected to the surrounding nature. The pantries and concentration areas are situated in the inner ring. The workstations for the Triodos Bank employees are installed at the three towers. It also holds true for this area that the workstations are purposely oriented towards the surrounding nature, with an inner which is provided with a functional zone with pantries, phone booths and concentration zones.
Organic shapes, sophisticated materials
The building is characterised by its openness and transparency (working as if you were in the surrounding forest!) and an extraordinary reception of light. The organic shapes, sophisticated materials and subtle use of colour brings about a natural stillness when entering the building and enhances how the building merges with its surroundings. Interior designer Odette Ex who, in her own words, sculpted the building as an artist rather than an architect: “This is the perfect example of how interior architecture and nature fully reinforce one another.”
In touch with nature
Odette: “From the first moment on, we as a team wanted to create a building that connects heaven and earth. A design that interconnects with nature. If you ask me, this is exactly what circularity stands for: it's not all about materials, it also involves being in touch with nature. This is something we have drifted away from. It truly affects you when you are surrounded by genuine materials at your place of work. At the Reehorst estate, we wanted to create a healthy work environment in which we sought perfection but also embraced imperfection. It was precisely the vulnerability of everything that we wanted to show. We installed linen walls to improve the acoustics, for example. By selecting materials based on their authenticity, an extra dimension was added to the building, creating an integrated design which contributes to the peace and serenity of the building.”
It was up to Gispen to completely furnish the building in a circular manner. We supplied all the separate pieces of furniture, which were partly new, and partly reused and refurbished. In addition, we provided many custom solutions. This unique project also called for a carefully selected team of people: account manager Egbert Bos was the first point of contact for the duration of the project. Robbert de Jonge, project manager and circular economy advisor, managed the reuse and revitalisation of the furniture. Head mechanic Michel ter Schegget and a permanent team of service technicians realised the delivery of all the furniture within 5 weeks.
Can you name a few circular highlights? Robbert: "Triodos Bank has reused approximately 400 existing workstations. We were able to reuse the frames, refurbish all the tabletops and added clever components to the desks to neatly and safely tuck away any wires and cables. All the oval conference tables were upgraded. One eye-catching conference table of no less than 7 metres and 20 centimetres long was shortened to 6 metres and was refinished. Moreover, all the existing seats have been reupholstered. Gispen CIMO is installed in the special cubicles: our circular, modular desk collection with cradle-to-cradle certified office chairs by Herman Miller. Egbert: “And don't forget all the custom solutions, realised in close cooperation with Iedema Projectstoffering and furniture builder Het Woud. From Desso round carpets to a long tailormade wooden workbench, a cabinet made of tree trunks, a wooden stand on both the ground floor and the first floor and two tables made of concrete ciré on the ground floor.”
Architect aan het woord
Dit soort projecten komt alleen maar tot stand als er aan de opdrachtgeverskant visionaire mensen opstaan, die staan voor wat ze willen uitdragen. Samen met partijen die hun kennis durven te delen, hun ego opzij zetten en anders durven te denken. Op het pad van circulair inrichten vind ik Gispen echt een van de voorlopers. Ze nemen hun verantwoordelijkheid en hebben neergezet wat wij voor ogen hadden. De samenwerking met Het Woud was ook prettig. Prototypes maken en finetunen, proefopstellingen doen om de verhoudingen in de ruimte te zien. Het heeft allemaal bijgedragen aan dit unieke eindresultaat.
Are you satisfied with the result?
Ellen Wiewel: “Our employees are enthusiastic and enjoy working at the Reehorst estate. The unique atmosphere and transparent facade through which nature almost literally enters are experienced very positively. We look forward to the spring and are curious to see what new surprises the estate has in store for us. I hope that our employees will discover working outdoors too.”
Odette Ex: “When you enter this building it just hits you – and it still happens to me every time I set foot inside! As a team we have not only succeeded in interconnecting the architecture and interior with nature, but we have also connected the physical with the emotional and spiritual. One could say that we have transformed an estate into an exceptional piece of land. From sustainability to circularity. And from CO2 emissions to CO2 absorption, due to all the wood which is incorporated (including the wooden support structures). The use of natural and pure materials is what makes the building breathe perceptively, making the connection between our minds and hearts. As far as I'm concerned, we can all be proud of this new mindset.”
Photography: Chris van Koeverden
Photo Odette Ex: Janita Sassen