NL Architects is known for their progressive and integrative approach in creating the built environment.  Tackling environmental, cultural and political issues, NL Architects is highly critical of the urban and sub-urban condition.   The firm is known for integrating heterogeneous program into a single structure in order to engage a broader population and promote community interaction.  They design buildings or objects that while appear stationary, foster movement inside, outside and even on the building.

I will highlight four projects NL architects have designed illustrating the principles I mentioned above:  Wos8, Basketbar, A8ernA and the BoomBench.


images:  Architetture

Wos8 is a heat distribution relay station in Utrecht, Netherlands.  This building recycles the leftover energy from the water cooling turbine fans from a local power plant.  This waste energy provides heat and hot water to new housing nearby.  The intention of the building was not only to recycle this energy, but it was placed in the city of Leidsche Rijn’s public space.  The limited accessibility of this type of building is prone to vandalism, but the building becomes a community activator. One side of the structure is covered in artificial climbing holds, another side a basketball hoop, and another holds nesting boxes for local bird species.  Also, the heavy rainfall in the Netherlands creates opportunities for rainwater catchment.  Spouts and cisterns have been added to this building to provide intriguing visual effects.


images:  Architetture

Basketbar is the gathering place for the University of Utrecht campus.  Placed at a major cross street of the campus, the Basketbar was introduced as the place for professors and students to socialize. Off the back of OMA’s Educatorium, the Basketbar is a continuation of the bookstore and the addition of a cafe on the ground level, followed by an exterior sunken “pool” for seating and skateboarding.  The basketball court is located above the café also acting as the roof of the structure.  The center of the court is cut out and filled with glass to provide a visual connection.


images:  Architonic

A8earnA is reutilization of existing infrastructure to unite two sides of town.  The underside of a bridge was a forgotten spot in the city for many years.  Instead of seeing this as derelict space, it was finally seen as an opportunity to do something different.  The once blind spot is now a community center filled with various activities driven by the input of the citizens.  A designated graffiti area, skate park, mini-marina, basketball court, soccer field, supermarket, flower shop and areas for parking. 


The BoomBench is a technology-integrated piece of street furniture that plays music from cell phones via Bluetooth.  Not only does is provide amenities to the public sphere in a functional way, it offers a fun way to interact with the surrounding environment through innovative art.   

The multi-functionality of these projects is the driver of my interest.  By integrating unlikely program into infrastructural projects or various functions into a single project, NL Architects is trying to maximize the potential of each project.  The term “mixed-use” is on the lips of every architect and developer as the latest promotion of development, but we aren’t utilizing existing structures and maximizing the potential that exists within our design capabilities.  In order for Civic Drive to become a community spot for the neighborhood, exploring the unimaginable capacity of this public amenity is the direction for success.


11/03/2009 21:36


These are amazing examples. I really like the reclaimed space under the overpass: the images make them look like invigorating transformations. After seeing the boombench, first I thought that the different spaces under the highway were connected with Media Walls.

I believe that things like sound can really make a different kind of space: some cities are using classical music to drive away youth. I also read about a project like the BoomBench where people traveling through a subway stop could leave their iTunes at that station; others would pick up the vibe of the community who passed through there. That idea was from the People and Practices group at Intel: the guys working with Colin on the Friday Machine in the Garden lecture and workshop series. Other media spaces and technology linked community work is centered at the Royal College of Art in London.

Best, N

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