The M+R Interior Architecture firm was responsible for designing the refurbishment of the building, which was originally the monastic library (Librije) of the Middelburg abbey. From 1574 onwards, this structure became the centre of power and politics in Zeeland, a province located in the south-west of Holland.
Over the centuries the building has been used in numerous different ways and in 1940 it was seriously damaged by a fire after a bombing raid. Reconstruction work began in the 1950s and in 1960 the abbey was officially opened by the then Queen Juliana. On account of the building’s chequered history, not a lot of the original interiors are left. In particular, during the 1970s, it began to be used as an office space which involved dividing the internal space into a series of small units reached by dark cramped corridors.
M+R won the tender for the renovation of the Librije in 2016. The project involved combining the abbey’s history with contemporary requirements, the most important of which was to provide flexible work stations. The firm organised the project around a series of meetings in which future users were asked directly what they needed.
The building was then completely stripped, partially restored and refurbished using sustainable materials. The project created large, beautiful spaces flooded with natural light. The "new" Librije is now an innovative work environment in a historical setting where the first and second floors are used as flexible work spaces to facilitate the working relationships between the Zeeland Provincial Council employees. There are offices, meeting rooms and relaxation areas located at the end of the offices where the atmosphere is more intimate.
Artificial lighting reproduces the pervasive, diffuse and homogeneous effect of natural daytime light. The 30 and 60 dimension versions of the iN pendant luminaire is the main device used, in some cases with a customised black finish. Both Square and traditional 2-cell versions of the Laser Blade recessed luminaire have also been installed in the false ceilings to create extra lighting in specific points.
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