Archival research is crucial when you're restoring a monumental building, according to Kees Doornenbal of Rappange en Partners, the architect responsible for renovating the future home of the Arts and Culture programme.
As Doornenbal explains, ‘getting to know the building’ is the first stage of any renovation – a process that involves archival research. ‘I'm also responsible for ensuring we comply with the client's schedule of requirements and the guidelines issued by Monumentenzorg and the Buildings Aesthetics Committee. It's all about striking a balance that does justice to both the building itself and the schedule.’
 Dutch Council on the Preservation of Historic Buildings and Sites
‘The building was first used as a surgery clinic in 1877. According to the original description, it was designed to accommodate sixty Female Convalescents. The central section of the building – on the Grimburgwal – featured a wide entrance. The bedridden patients were carried upstairs “crosswise”, so the staircase had to have a width of over two metres. The facade consisted of a series of adjoining windows. The UvA wanted to restore the staircase, facade and entrance on the Grimburgwal to their former glory.’
According to the archival documents, the building was modified in 1916. ‘In order to meet the requirements of the time. For example, they needed to add more storage space. Architect De Greef modified the clinic's interior while architect Godefroy designed a new facade with staggered windows. The entrance and stairwell were relocated to the rear of the building on the Turfdraagsterpad, and the width of the stairwell was reduced.’
The long original hallway without doors that divided the building into a front and rear section was one of the most striking features. The outpatient clinic was located in the front of the building, near the water. The rear section was part of the Binnengasthuis, and accommodated the storage areas and patient rooms from 1916 onwards. The hospital wards were located at the front of the building, with the operating theatre and narrow staircase situated in the central section. Doornenbal: ‘I restored the building's original structure, retaining the hallway and stairwell.’
‘When restoring a building you need to take into account what we refer to as the building maturation process. The modifications carried out in 1916 have become an integral part of the building. Replacing the original facade and entrance from 1877 would have been extremely costly. It would be impossible to get a permit anyway, as the new design wouldn't incorporate the building's subsequent expansion. That's why the facade will stay the way it is. However, the sun blinds and thermal insulation do meet modern requirements. The pointing and brickwork will also be renewed.’ As Doornenbal explains, the facade will be restored in sober style.
‘The design team and I faced the challenge of converting the narrow staircase into the heart of the building, creating an open, spacious area. We eventually managed to achieve our goal through a number of modifications. We also designed an entrance that intuitively leads to a large meeting space. This area then leads to the lecture rooms, repro rooms and other facilities. We've arranged for all the necessary permits and a design team is currently supervising the implementation process. As the design team, we're no longer involved in this stage. Although I personally wish we were, that's obviously up to the client.’
Rappange specialises in the restoration and renovation of monumental buildings. Previous assignments include the restoration of the Tuschinski cinema, Artis Zoo members' hall and the Portuguese synagogue.