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Forum Groningen

Forum Groningen is an iconic cultural complex consisting of eleven floors. Below the building is a five basement parking garage consisting of approximately four hundred parking spaces and 1,500 bicycle parking spaces. ABT played an important role in realizing the principles of the architectural concept.
Client Municipality of Groningen
Completion time 2008-2019
Market Art and culture and Government buildings
In collaboration with NL Architects Amsterdam
Location Groningen
Project scope Cultural complex: 20.300 m2 bvo. Parking garage: 14.500 m2 bvo.

Partnership with NL Architects

The start of the Forum dates back to 2007 and a competition in which NL Architects signed for the design and ABT was part of the winning team as structural engineer. The subsequent order from the Municipality of Groningen was accepted by a joint venture. This is how the collaboration became a full-fledged partnership from day one.

The design

NL Architects designed an ambitious, sculptural building on the east side of the Grote Markt. The far ends of the building slope in opposite directions. Chamfered surfaces improve light penetration for surrounding buildings. They make the building look spacious. The glass atrium offers spectacular views. Sustainability was an important aspect throughout the design process. Result: the building’s energy consumption is half that of its reference building.

Constructive challenges

ABT played an important role in realizing the principles of the architectural concept. Design leader Marco van der Ploeg: “The structural challenges were enormous: the columns do not line up on any floor and the façades slope. The highly irregular superstructure had to fit the regular grid of the parking garage below. The behaviour of the structure placed special demands on the architectural finishes and façade. All of this required engineering at the cutting edge of technology.”

Building underground

ABT used a quick scan to assess the risks of environmental impact in relation to an efficient construction pit principle. A variance study resulted in a five-and-a-half-story basement with diaphragm walls, underwater concrete, tension/pressure piles and tension anchors. Underwater concrete was used as a temporary under-seal of the construction pit. At nearly 4,000 m3, the floor of steel-fibre-reinforced underwater concrete was the largest in the Netherlands at the time.

Parking garage

The main supporting structure consists of two concrete cores with volumes of steel between them, placed on top of the parking garage. The architecture placed huge demands on the construction: the columns were not to align on any floor and the façades were sloping. A spider web of supporting vertical lines was created, which also provide driving horizontal forces. This irregular superstructure had to fit the regular parking grid in the substructure.



In 2015, the challenge of making the building comply with the then draft NPR (Dutch Practice Guideline) for earthquake-resistant construction was added. ABT succeeded in making the required structural modifications in such a way that the appearance of the building did not suffer.



The public opening of the Forum Groningen on November 29 saw the culmination of this extensive project by NL Architects and ABT after 12 years. The city’s residents and visitors were provided with a multipurpose centre including two exhibition halls, an interactive museum, five movie theatres, a library, event hall and dozens of work and study spaces.


In 2020, the efforts to create this unique building were rewarded. At the Architectenweb Awards, Forum Groningen won the Public Building of the Year award. It also won the Dutch Design Award in the habitat category. BNA named Forum the Best Building of the Year.

Images: © Deon Prins and © Marcel van der Burg

It takes partnership to build an icon

Like to know more about the creation of Forum Groningen? In our booklet  ‘Een icoon bouw je samen’ (An Icon You Build Together),” six ABT employees look back on their roles in the project and the collaboration with NL Architects.

Een icoon bouw je samen