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text Machteld Kors, translation: Willem Boterman, photos Joachim Baan

The National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) is a closed campus tucked away in the woods of Bilthoven. The campus is dominated by gloomy office blocks and concrete laboratories. It was planned that the Cohen-building (1986) should host the new gym for employees, which nowadays has become a standard part of Dutch terms of employment in order to keep workers fit and healthy. The available space, which was in use as standard offices in a spacious yet dark office landscape, was stripped completely. The closed front panels were replaced with glass. In the part of the space with a double high ceiling a volume is placed that is floating in the air, which accommodates the dressing rooms. The wooden benches on either side are carefully positioned in line with the size and pattern of the tiles. The same applies to the shower drain and the mirror. The lockers, made in perforated-steel, are placed against the outer glass wall, enabling backlight to conceal the partially visible contents of the lockers. The wash-hand basins are, as well as the framework and the number plates of the lockers, made in sandblasted stainless steel. As a project architect of the Government Buildings Agency Marlies Boterman has turned different levels of transparency, reflection, and concealment into important themes in her design. Supplies as installations, lightning, and also mirrors have been wholly integrated behind a layer of perforated white panels, which cover the ceiling and the walls too. This white ‘veil’ differs subtly between surfaces and together with the white and shiny cast-floor brings about a serenity, which enables the sportsman to concentrate and perform optimally. The employees can look outside through the veil, while it is hardly possible to be watched from the other side, thereby guaranteeing privacy to the sportsmen. Confrontational mirrors are placed carefully. Through the partition-wall with its golden trophy box, passers-by can only catch a glimpse of exercising colleagues. Due to the mirroring effect of the shining golden studs they mainly see their own reflection. It is a glamorous eye-catching element in the design. On the golden studs silhouettes are punched that resemble sports trophies. From a distance these golden studs together constitute on a bigger scale again shapes of sports cups and ribbons. The idea of this trophy box was by Joachim Baan. The integral approach and the precise and consequent detailing together with the glamorous use of materials make this design a powerful statement that speaks out for an attractive space.

Fitness centre RIVM in Bilthoven
Client: Central Gouvernment Real Estate Agency and RIVM,
Project architect: Marlies Boterman
Project team: Aad van Berkel, Maarten Meester, Elmer Gouw, Diedrick de Vilder, Winfried van Zeeland
Graphic designer: Joachim Baan, Another Company
Area: 295 m2, Start design: October 2005, Finished: February 2007
Nominated for Lensvelt Interior Price 2007