US Studio Bunker | icon 042 | December 2006

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words Beatrice Galilee

A concrete bunker from the Second World War was the starting point for a multi-purpose space by Amsterdam-based architect UN Studio.

Completed this month, the building is on a vast landscaped site overlooking a series of polo fields in Vreeswijk, the Netherlands.

The owner of the land was prohibited by law from pulling down the unsightly 5m by 3m concrete structure. So, last year he held a competition to design an entrance to the site that could also serve as a meeting room, a viewing platform to watch polo matches, and a place for friends to stay. But he prefers to call this flexible space his “tea house”.

UN Studio used the existing structure’s 70cm-thick concrete walls as a counterweight to balance a spectacular 8m cantilever and encase a single space in a seamless cloak of 2mm-thick steel. The shape contorts towards the polo fields, which are framed by a 15m-wide floor-to-ceiling window.

“It is something between art and airport,” says UN Studio principal Ben van Berkel, “a little folly that hangs onto something not so pleasant.”

The cladding was formed from a single piece of punctured steel, which was welded directly onto the steel structure – the process took a team of welders a year to complete.

For van Berkel, the project offered an opportunity to produce a highly crafted building on a small scale. “You can feel the sensitivity of this place; it has a hand-crafted quality,” he says. “You can tell it is not something that has just come out of the building industry.”

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