De Barones Shopping Centre

Location Breda, The Netherlands
Client MAB B.V.
Content 10,000m² Retail
Status Built

1998 International Council of Shopping Centres Award, Commended

There is no simple solution to the problem of restructuring a large semi-derelict site in the heart of a medieval city centre – incorporating existing buildings, demolishing others, introducing a shopping centre and housing and then stitching the whole seamlessly into the surrounding urban fabric. Yet this was the challenge faced by CZWG, working in collaboration with Dutch architect Kraaijvanger Urbis, at Breda in The Netherlands. CZWG’s brief was to take responsibility for the design of the arterial shopping mall that laces the multifarious elements of the scheme together: shopping centre, social and student housing and existing structures. CZWG designed a series of six linked ‘rooms’, each with its own elegant roof of glazed steel trusses which filter the light. The rooms are visually and partially terminated with the precast shells supported at the knuckle junction between one room and the next.

The expressed structural frame is in buff precast concrete; columns are chunky enough to integrate waste bins and ashtrays. The central column at first floor level is something of an optical illusion, being only partly structural and stopping above ground floor; it acts as a duct for ventilation and supports seating around its base. The street level is paved in granite, the upper ‘piano nobile’ level has endgrain oak flooring and bespoke cast balustrading. The design of the upper level is deliberately seductive, calculated to attract shoppers: defeating the pull of gravity in shopping centres is always one of the toughest challenges facing designers.