Early 2003 a busstation was completed on the forecourt of the Spaarne Ziekenhuis in Hoofddorp. This facilities building stands in the middle of a public square, a common space shaped like an island, serving as an intersection for the local public transit.

address: Voorplein Spaarne Ziekenhuis, Hoofddorp, HOLLAND
design: NIO architecten
client: Schiphol Project Consult
contractor: Ooms Bouwmaatschappij
structural engineer: Ingenieursbureau Zonneveld & Engiplast
design team: Henk Bultstra, Mirjam Galjé, Hans Larsen, Maurice Nio, Jaakko van ‘t Spijker
start design: 1999
completion: 2003
costs: € 1.000.000
area: 330 m2

The Amazing Whale Jaw by NIO architecten - Sheet3
©NIO architecten

Customarily, these types of buildings have a neutral design. In order to give the bus transit’s image it’s own, singular presence – less protestant and generic than usual – a building was designed in the tradition of Oscar Niemeyer: crossing luminous modernism with dark baroque.

The Amazing Whale Jaw by NIO architecten - Sheet4
©NIO architecten

The building is fashioned completely out of styrofoam and polyester, making it the largest building in the world constructed solely from synthetic materials (50m x 10m x 5m). Using conventional methods this building would have been impossible to realize within the project’s budget.

The Amazing Whale Jaw by NIO architecten - Sheet5
©NIO architecten

It is often asked what the building’s shape is supposed to represent. There are various valid responses to this question. One could interpret it as a large boulder, eroded through walking movements and sight lines – this is an architecturally correct response. One could interpret it as a shape not sought with difficulty but found willingly – this is a philosophically correct response. Lastly, one could explain it as a product of the design process, which in this case was found by touch, considering the unfamiliar technical terrain everyone was moving through – this is a correct response in terms of the work process. All these answers are correct and at the same time irrelevant. On this building, like on the white face of a geisha, all interpretations and images can be projected. It will not respond for itself.


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