RADIUS, Center for Contemporary Art and Ecology

DP6 designs RADIUS, a new centre for contemporary art focussing on ecology and climate. The art centre will open in 2022 in the 1918 pump-house with underground reservoir, a heritage building attached to the water-tower on the northern side of central Delft. The design consists of three building elements, each with their own ambience: the fascinating underground reservoir, to be converted into a 500 m2 exhibition space; the appealing pump-house, which will be transformed into an entrance space; and a new-built, transparent pavilion to house the restaurant. The design pays a great deal of attention to the project’s ecological footprint through the use of biologically based materials, low-tech building systems, and regard for the biodiversity of the historic city park.


Giving the green city-space back to the people of Delft
The Kalverbos, in which RADIUS will acquire a central position, is a valuable green space on the northern side of Delft’s city centre with a rich history. In the past, the area formed part of Delft’s city defences, and in the 19th century became a cemetery. The characteristic water-tower dates from 1896, and is part of the Delft’s protected cityscape. In 1918, the tower was extended with a pump-house and a large, circular reservoir – buried under an earth bank, and with a capacity of over two million litres of drinking water. The reservoir’s circular walls have been affected by the water over time, and display splendid markings. Delft council was very keen to have the water-tower complex fulfil a public function, allowing the beautiful green space to be fully used by the community.


Contemporary art centre with three ambiences
The contemporary art centre will consist of three sections, each with their own ambience: a warm, appealing entry area in the old pump-house; a stimulating and rugged exhibition space in the circular reservoir; and a light, transparent restaurant pavilion where guests can enjoy the park views. The design respects and reinstates the building’s existing historic qualities, rendering it suitable as an art centre by the addition of two sophisticated new elements, constructed from biologically and domestically sourced plywood.



Two sophisticated, biologically sourced multiplex elements to transform the heritage building into an art centre
The first plywood element, comprising the entrance and bookshop, will be built inside the existing pump-house, constructed separately from the original building itself to preserve its heritage. Visitors will enter at the ground-floor, and take the stairwell either down to the exhibition space in the underground reservoir, or up to the restaurant pavilion on the earth bank. Extra seating for the restaurant is provided under the pump-house’s beautiful, atmospheric beams.The second plywood element, located above the earth bank, is the restaurant pavilion, comprising nothing more than four wooden beams, natural insulating material, and glass down to ground level. The pavilion and the pump-house are to be connected by a glass strip, enabling the structural elements to be isolated from each other. The combined indoors/outdoors feeling is optimised through extensive transparency and refinement in the detailing. A green roof sown with plants that give scent and colour throughout the year will contribute to the park’s biodiversity. The rugged ambience in the underground reservoir is very suited to the theme of RADIUS. Consequently, the walls, with their remarkable chalk traces, will be preserved, and breached in only a few places to enable a comfortable flow of visitors. As the earth around the reservoir serves as insulation and cooling for the complex, little extra building systems are necessary.

RADIUS Center for Contemporary Art and Ecology
The new art centre RADIUS is an initiative of Niekolaas Lekkerkerk (b. 1988), the current director of the art space A Tale of A Tub in the west of Rotterdam. “The programme of RADIUS welcomes artists and other interested parties that recognise the urgency of ecological issues – climate change, pollution, the reduction in biodiversity, environmental rights and social justice,” says Niekolaas.  “The location of the art centre in Delft, close to some of the world’s leading scientific institutions, offers us the opportunity to concentrate on inter-disciplinary cooperation.” Read more about RADIUS in the interview Niekolaas Lekkerkerk gave in the NRC. (in Dutch)


R. Lekkerkerk Beheer BV

Kalverbos 20, Delft

Pieters Bouwtechniek | DGMR | Lindeloof Tuin- en Landschapsarchitecten

Historical photo: Anna Krul
Photo underground basin: Amy van Leiden