International Criminal Court in The Hague, showcase of Green Building

#architects #criminal court #dune landscape #green building #ICC #landscape architects #meijndel #schmidt hammer lassen #The Hague #the Netherlands

The City of The Hague is proud of its reputation as ‘The Legal Capital of the World’. Starting in the year 1913, with the official opening of the Peace Palace that in 1918 became the official seat of the International Court of Justice, The Hague now is the scene of legal conferences as well as court sessions (for instance the Yugoslavia Tribunal) and shortly the International Criminal Court (ICC) will start its work in the new complex.

The ICC is an example, a showcase of ‘green building’, planned as it is on the borders of The Hague-Scheveningen, where the city meets the undulating green landscape of the Dutch dunes, all the way to the North Sea. The ICC site is situated in the former Alexanderkazerne on the border of the city of The Hague and the Meijendel dune landscape, an important water reservoir and Natura 2000 protected area.

Reuniting dunes and buildings

The prestigious task of designing the ICC complex was awarded to a Danish group of architects, Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects. One of the primary and most important aims of the landscape concept is to “reunite” the site with the dune landscape and hereby allowing the ICC permanent premises to be situated in the unique surrounding of the Meijendel landscape. Mr Bjarne Hammer, founding partner of the Schmidt Hammer Lassen group, explains the philosophy of their design.

“The ICC in an international institution which, with its importance in our society, for many reasons needs a permanent premises. In our design we are aware how important it is for this building to express the values of the ICC:  To the victims, to their families and to the world, the ICC premises must communicate respect, trust and hope. Therefore, this building cannot be anonymous; it must have the courage to express the values and the credibility of the ICC. The main concept is the sculptural arrangement of buildings in the landscape and the design of a landmark that conveys the eminence and authority of the ICC while at the same time relating to a human scale.  The overall building form can be seen as an undulating composition of volumes on the horizon, reminiscent of the dune landscape. It was evident that connecting the dune landscape with the edge of the city had a striking potential. By designing a compact building with a small footprint, we propose to return the landscape to the city,” says Bjarne Hammer.

Joint effort with landscape architects

Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects always work in teams, without any explicit leadership. Hammer: “So the result you see today in The Hague is in many ways a result of a joint effort. Not only from us as architects but just as much of the co-creation we have had with the client, the users, and the other consultants who are part of this project.” SLA, the landscape architects, played an important part in bringing green and nature into the project.

“By making a sharp incision into the ground the building complex forms a contrast to the surrounding dune landscape. The architectural idea is to continue the gardens in the ground floor (parterre) level of the building as a cladding of the Court Tower. Gardens have always existed as part of all cultures and all religions. With flowers and plants from each of the ICC member countries, the parterre gardens rise up as a green landmark and a symbol of unity, regardless of nationality and culture,” explained Bjarne Hammer.

Example of Green City philosophy

Although the Green City philosophy ( as such is not yet very well known in Denmark, the ICC can certainly be seen as an example, an application of Green City ideas. Mr Hammer explains that in Denmark similar initiatives and ideas in Denmark are applied by his group of architects and incorporated into designs and master plans whenever possible. SLA, the landscape architects, has for many years been working with nature elements in projects, and always work with the greatest possible biodiversity in order to improve life for inhabitants, animals and insects.

Sustainability is a key word I the whole of the ICC’s design. Jan-Paul Koning, Senior architect at Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects, explains: “This is most clearly expressed in items that are not visible, like for instance the heat & cold storage which is the largest of its kind in the Netherlands. There is a long list of items and measurements which are integrated into the building and into the landscape, such as: water-saving toilets and taps, automatic daylight control of luminaires for all lighting in offices, biological cleaning of the mirror pond and use of green roofs. Another factor which applies is the fact that the new premises are located on the border of a Natura 2000 site and are part of the local water-win area. Therefore, strict local regulations apply for applied materials their possible leaching and work during the construction period.”

‘Also, plants have the highest priority in the landscape design. Everybody who visit or work at the ICC should be able to feel familiar to the landscapes either external or internal, in the courtyards of the building complex. The Dune landscape relates to the host state, The Netherlands. As mentioned before the vegetation is borrowed from the adjacent Meijendel dune landscape and consist of a mix of grasses, herbs, shrubs and trees in different sizes and shapes,  to mirror the natural landscape as close as possible. Thorny shrubs in big coherent plantings are a part of the security concept and prevent access to the building complex in a friendly way instead of high disfiguring iron fences.

Inside the building complex different landscapes types from all over the world are expressed in five courtyards, integrated as a part of the parterre level. Because of the temperate climate in Holland, it has not been possible to implement plants from the respective continents. All suggested plants are winter hardy and every courtyard must be understood as “a picture of a landscape”.

Specific maintenance plan

A building with so many green elements requires a very specific maintenance plan. “We are in the process of developing a maintenance plan including, for instance irrigation systems integrated in both the plant boxes at the court tower and in the courtyards. Fertilizer can be added to the irrigation system. Plants will be replaced when necessary and a specific maintenance plan for the different courtyards will be developed.”



Below some additional information provided by Schmidt Hammer Lassen



ICC Permanent Premises Dune Landscape concept 1

Den Haag and the Meijendel dune landscape

The ICC site is situated in the former Alexanderkazerne on the border of the city of The Hague and the Meijendel dune landscape, an important water reservoir and Natura 2000 protected area.

One of the primary and most improtant aims of the landscape concept is to “reunite” the site with the dune landscape and hereby allowing the ICC permanent premises to be situated in the unique surrounding of the Meijendel landscape.

ICC Permanent Premises Dune Landscape concept 2

Security and landscape concept

The ICC permanent premises security level is extremely high, due to the nature of the cases the court deals with. By integrating the security precautions in the general landscape concept, the ICC permanent premises obtains a situation, where the building complex has a safe and secure atmosphere and the security measures are hidden from public view.

The primary idea is to situate the complex as a cut in the landscape, establishing an interior that relates to the international collectivity of the ICC, and an exterior that entrenches the ICC to the local dutch landscape and opens it to the public.

ICC Permanent Premises Dune Landscape concept 3

Sand footpaths in the dune landscape

Even though solving complex demands, the basic inspiration of the landscape design is very simple. The image of sand footpaths through the dune landscape is the underlying theme of the design of as well the Plaza as the parking areas.

ICC Permanent Premises Dune Landscape concept 4

Security, parking and public spaces integrated within the dunes

The functions of the ICC permanent premises places many and complex demands upon the surroundings. The simple and flexible concept allows the security-, traffi c and public funtions to be integrated in the dunes in a way, that makes the general impression of the site, experienced from adjacent streets and building, green and “duny”.

A general aim is to “minimize paving and maximize dunes”.

ICC Permanent Premises Dune Landscape concept 5

The Plaza area

The aim of the plaza design is to integrate the plaza functions in the dune landscape.

Several access points leads into the dunes, where they merge and lead the visitors towards the main entrance pavilion. The paved area is minimized to create as much dune landscape as possible. In two areas; in front of the entrance pavilion and near the main access point by van Alkemadelaan the paths expands to create an open space. By the entrance pavilion the space is meant for arrival and reception of guest. By van Alkemadelaan the expansion creates a space for public gatherings, TV transmission, commemoration and occasionally even demonstrations. The aim is to create an informal and democratic public space within the dune landscape.