An undulating wood and glass pavilion by Powerhouse Company will function as one of the eyecatchers for the program of Leeuwarden – Fryslân European Capital of Culture. The Obe pavilion was designed for the Lân fan taal (“Land of Languages”) manifestation, which sets out to celebrate the diversity of language. The new building had to host an ambitious program on a very compact footprint.
It had to house both a visitor centre and an exhibition space, as well as provide a venue for performances. Because of its central and strategic location in the historic heart of Leeuwarden, the new building had to be accessible and attractive from all sides. Powerhouse Company addressed this by creating a rectangular, transparent volume with an undulating wooden roof which can be used as a public grandstand.
This permanently accessible grandstand opens onto the Oldehoofsterkerkhof, a historic square which is primarily used for large public events in the city center of Leeuwarden. The pavilion strengthens the squares’ function as a space for performances, events and encounters. Sustainability and innovation were key in the design. The result is a compact, energy neutral building with an open layout, in natural materials, crafted in an innovative way so that it can easily be adapted.
Through 3D milling techniques the building was constructed with a high level of precision. This strategy also made it possible to construct the pavilion within a tight time frame, as there were less than two years between the sketch design and the deadline – the start of the Capital of Culture year. In 2018 the city of Leeuwarden – in the Dutch region of Friesland – is the European Capital of Culture, together with Valetta, Malta. In Friesland not only Dutch but also Frisian is spoken, making it the only official bilingual region in the Netherlands.
The local language, together with the concept of an iepen mienskip (“Open Community”), is a strong point of pride for the inhabitants. Not without reason, the pavilion was named after Frisian poet Obe Postma. Lân fan taal wants to celebrate multilingualism, and to enable the public to learn, experience and feel the importance and diversity of language. Not only of Dutch and Frisian, but of languages from all over the world, spoken as well as unspoken – braille, body language, dance, music and street language.
The 2nd of February will see the official inauguration of the pavilion and the opening of the exhibition space with an installation by British artist Tim Etchells. Communication is a central theme for Etchells, whose works question our contemporary identity and our relationship with language. For Lân fan taal, Etchellls created a site specific artwork featuring both his trademark neons as well as spoken messages, deploying the space and mission of the building to the fullest extent. Source by Powerhouse Company.
- Location: Leeuwarden – Ljouwert, the Netherlands
- Architect: Powerhouse Company
- Partner in Charge: Stefan Prins
- Project Team: Nanne de Ru, Stefan Prins, Max Tala Nossin, Peter Lee, Melanie Lo, Helena Tse, Joppe Kusters, Michael Schuurman, Erwin van Strien, Gert Ververs
- Structural advisor: BreedID, Gilbert van der Lee
- Installation advisor: ProJoule, Jan de Boer
- Client: Provinsje Fryslân
- Size: 500 m2
- Year: 2018
- Photographs: Ossip van Duivenbode, Courtesy of Powerhouse Company
Article by Marco Rinaldi