Kaboutergarage (Gnome parking garage), Almere, The Netherlands
The development of the Gnome parking garage, with 413 parking spaces, is part of the expansion of the city centre of Almere-Buiten. Features of this plan are a lot of green and a clear urban structure. At the architectural level many experiments with innovative materialisation and new constructions have been made, as also in the Gnome parking garage.
The special facade of the garage contains natural elements, like integrated plant containers with specific plants based on the orientation of the facade.
By using a vacuum forming technique – commonly utilized in the automotive industry – the perforated facade panels show characteristic images of the province of Flevoland like birds, windmills, garden gnomes and bird houses. The perforation of the sheeting supplies natural ventilation in the parking garage and creates an open atmosphere, especially at night.
It’s our pleasure to bring this garage to your attention. While there may be lots of garages, this one is exceptional for a number of reasons:
1. The place and the building.
The garage is covered with perforated stainless-steel panels that convey the green character of Almere. All new buildings in Almere Buiten must convey the green character of Almere. They usually do this with green roofs and terraces. While exploring the green character of Almere, we came across front gardens with gnomes and windmills, and fringes of reeds in the surrounding polders, and birdhouses in municipal trees. And since the green is not always present in the winter, we decided in consultation with the client (municipality of Almere) to cover the car park with figuration depicting the everyday greenery of Almere Buiten. Such a lavishly adorned building seldom appears, and in Almere Buiten the building looks like an old-fashioned tin tobacco box between the flat brick and rubble walls that are common there. The figuration and narrative skin make this a welcome change in the somewhat dreary centre of Almere Buiten.
2. Craftsmanship and production.
The Voest Alpine automotive company in Spakenburg, previously known as Polynorm, made the stainless-steel panels. Polynorm used to fabricate steel doorframes and is known, amongst other things, for the prefab steel houses from the 1960s. Since the take-over in about 1990, the company has mainly manufactured steel panelling for cars. Together with Atto Harsta of Aldus Bouwinnovatie we succeeded in stimulating some employees to produce the panels for the garage here. These panels are vacuum formed with the help of 3D computer techniques, special sheet- metal perforating machines, and moulds milled from cast steel. The small square perforations are specially rounded because of the danger that the corners of the perforations would tear when the sheets are being 3D vacuumed. Square-shaped perforations were chosen because the entire steel structure is composed of square tube profiles. Material development has therefore been conducted in almost molecular fashion, and the stainless-steel skin acquires a relation with the supporting steel structure. This will be the only building in the Netherlands with such panels, given that Voest Alpine Austria has decided to confine its activities to the automotive industry. The delicacy of the material and its treatment with the accompanying production methods mark a return to the idea of crafted products in unique fashion.
3. Integration of building regulations in the panels.
The stainless-steel panels are designed in such a way that their air permeability is 30% on account of the ventilation requirements for car parks. They are also detailed for safety to prevent people from falling through them, and are also almost entirely transparent during daylight from inside the garage and, as a result, ensure a socially safe space.
4. Coarse and fine detail.
As already stated, the garage is constructed entirely of square tube profiles. This is perhaps more expensive than IPE profiles but is better in terms of maintenance and sturdiness. The rough interior therefore contrasts sharply with the filigree veil that wraps the garage. This intentional contrast is best experienced at night. Moreover, the tender offer for the construction turned out to be 25% cheaper than expected.
5. A garage people will come to love.
Last but not least, the repetition of the ornamentation in combination with the different flower boxes results in a garage whose appearance has never been seen in the Netherlands before. It is no anonymous box of the sort we all know, but a garage we will come to love. It has already become a special place for the residents of Almere Buiten, even for graffiti-loving youths. That was made possible by the mature design for the garage building.
Straat van Florida
1334 PA Almere
415 parking places
Mei architecten en stedenbouwers
Robert Winkel, Menno van der Woude, Hennie Dankers, Robert Platje, Pepijn Berghout, Maurice
de Ruijter, Nars Broekharst
Stadsbeheer Gemeente Almere
Pieters Bouwtechniek Almere
Copijn garden and landscape architects
Copijn garden and landscape architects takes care of the plants on the facade. On each facade
there are specific plants based on the orientation of the facade.
Van Elst & Roelofs Plancoördinatie