The High Park project is about repurposing abandoned office buildings and healing the urban fabric. This is a challenge. Especially when dealing with a building from the brutalist era that has a rather defensive appearance and is engraved in the local, collective memory as such. It takes clever design to take down both the physical and mental barriers that shaped this place. For long, the former ING bank building was seen as the ugly polluter of the Arnhem skyline, an irrepressible fortress. The transformation of both building and site has completely changed this perception. The plan opens up the entire site, visually as well as physically, by demolishing almost all the outbuildings and adding an undulated park. Aim was to create a proper park, not a standard garden at the bottom of a tower block, an inviting green space that connects the building entrances to the surrounding streetscape and opens the site for the surrounding neighbourhood.

The former ING bank building located in Arnhem, the Netherlands, has undergone a complete transformation from drab office and logistic building to a vibrant campus with a varied program and green spaces. The brutalist Kruisgebouw was designed in 1967 by Broekbakema Architects. Powerhouse company transformed the building by stripping it down based on the original design.
The renovated building complex houses over 400 new apartments and lofts, as well as a supermarket, parking garage, gym and dentist offices in the main Kruisgebouw and eastern Oostgebouw. In the near future, an additional dwell/care facility at the west side of the plot will be realised.

Arnhem lies on the cusp of the Veluwe, a large nature reserve in the center of the Netherlands. The natural sandy pathways snaking through heaths and grasslands here form the inspiration for a meandering pattern of paths and planting, which is consistently carried through and connects the various components into one continuous park. A park that is otherwise a wink to the original estates along the Velperweg, one of the main roads leading into the city centre. The organic design of the park softens the hard concrete architecture. The lush greenery consists of single- and multi-stem trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials plants. Mostly native plants and trees are used, however several non-native tree species, specifically suitable for their heat tolerance have been added to the plan. The planting is designed to accommodate various climate conditions within the project such as shade, downwind and limited space to grow yet show a very divers colour palette. Given the limited budget and the shallow planters, a technique of hydro-seeding was applied for the perennials.

The park pathways are wide, durable, and easily accessible for maintenance and wheelchair users. The choice of material, asphalt with a top layer of soft colored crushed stone, mimics the sandy pathways of the Veluwe. Along these paths strategically placed sturdy wooden benches offer a resting place and views overlooking the park. Half of the terrain is a roof garden that smoothly bridges a six meter height difference in the local topography.

The design takes on challenges like rain water storage, reduction of the urban heat island effect and the need for more biodiversity; it carefully incorporates them in order to create a pleasant place to stay. Rain water storage is facilitated in both crates under the pavement as well as a water storage facility in the basement of the building, that has the capacity to buffer the surface runoff from the surrounding neighbourhood during peak showers. Urban wildlife also gets a place, specifically a bat roost integrated in a former basement bunker. The climate adaptive measures were taken at the initiative of the design team. Boundaries were pushed to make this plan happen.

In several places a reference to the past function of the building site was made. The main entrance square for instance, features original sculptures. Made of concrete and coated white, these sculptures are abstract renditions of office tools used by employees of the former bank, such as staples, punch machines or stamps. They are placed on a pavement pattern that resembles a punch card. Another subtle remark on the millions of punch cards that once were processed here in the original bank building. In addition to these a handful of other sculptures, that originally dotted the site, have also been saved and/ or relocated within the project. These entail a large ING-blue sculpture in front of the Oostgebouw and relocated white, staple-like sculptures on the intersection of the main entrance area and the Velperweg.

The transformation gives back 7500 square meters of semi-public green space to the city of Arnhem. The design of High Park creates a new green connection in a dense part of town and offers a meeting place to both residents and the neighbourhood. It balances big bold shapes with fine, well thought out, details.

Architecture offices involved in the design: Powerhouse company

Location: Velperweg 47, 6824 BG Arnhem, the Netherlands

Design year: 2016-2020

Year Completed: 2020-2022

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