Depot Boijmans van Beuningen
When designing the Boijmans Van Beuningen Depot, the shape of the building and its mirror-like façade were iconic and the museum’s showpiece. The perception of perfection of the reflection is influenced by the exactness of the shape.
1664 glass panels
Eight years of preparation preceded the realization of the Depot. On behalf of ABT, senior structural engineering project manager Rowan van Wely was involved in the project from 2014. “For us, the main challenge was how to keep this very complex form under technical control? The 1664 glass panels were to follow the horizontal and vertical lines of the building to within millimeters to achieve the desired visual effect. In the end, our team agreed on a layout of 26 unique glass panel designs. The curvature of the panels is not circular, but spherical. Parametric design tools were used for the formulas and control of shape and mirroring.”
Testing, testing, testing
The choice of glass and coating types was another puzzle. Rowan: “We wanted to achieve a perfect natural reflection, with not a hint of colour. Such a result will depend on the types of glass and coatings used. We did several tests with glass samples. We processed the results in mockups so we could verify that the results met the requirements.”
All calculations were reviewed in a BIM 3D model for their effects and feasibility. Then the outcomes were extensively field-tested in the design phase before being incorporated into the specifications. In the execution phase, ABT oversaw the seamless specification transfer to the glass suppliers and contractors.
By defining in mathematical rules – through rationalization – the shape for manufacturing purposes was precisely defined. With acknowledgement of the curve as a variable, adjustments to the shape at late stages of the design could easily be made without affecting the ongoing process. The exact shape of the glass panels was defined in BIM models (Revit). Linking these models to the parametric shape models made it easy to generate new documentation and flexibly respond to shape changes.
Success through integral cooperation
For many years in the project, ABT worked closely with the architectural firm MVRDV, the contractor, glass benders, glass and coating suppliers and façade builder. Rowan: “That way, we were sure at every stage that the design was manufacturable and achievable. And that the end result would do full justice to the aesthetic design.”
Rowan is proud of the end result. “It turned out exactly as we had in mind.” But Rowan finds most satisfaction in the perfect integral teamwork, both within the ABT/MVRDV team and with external parties. “By working together so intensively, we were able to overcome all the technical and aesthetic challenges and prove that this complex task was achievable. And then we won the 2021 Glass Award … A great recognition of the team’s achievement!”