Amsterdam’s OBA Oosterdok library required a renovation that could consolidate it as a leading destination for both locals and visitors to read, learn and meet up. The goal was to create innovative, adaptable new learning spaces, hangout areas and a building capable of catering to new ways of learning – digital and analogue – while keeping the library’s collection of 1.1 million books as centrepiece.

Sustainability, flexibility and future-proofing were key to the renovation. Working with architects Jo Coenen, Arup experts provided consultancy on services including water, mechanical, electrical, public health and fire engineering, as well as acoustics and lighting. Working from circular-economy principles, we found ways to reuse as much of the structure as possible, making the project budget- and climate-friendly.

While maintaining and upgrading the existing services such as piping and ventilation, Arup designed spaces that could transform with the needs of the library’s patrons. Now the library has spaces for community meetings and casual hangouts; freelance workspaces and places for startup businesses to network. All in a sustainable structure that can change in future, as ways of learning will certainly change, too. 

Leading rennovations

Arup was initially appointed in 2007 to provide structural design for the new build. For the latest refurbishment, Arup was engaged to provide a wide range of consultancy services including lighting design, and carry out a feasibility assessment for the proposed changes.

Spaces have been redesigned to include more room for individual study and group learning, a second auditorium, and an expanded food offering including a grand café on the ground floor, featuring the largest magazine collection in the Netherlands; and a new restaurant - Babel -  on the seventh floor. Another new feature is the World Library, a series of previously unused wood-clad alcoves now accessible via an elegant staircase that will house a selection of international (foreign language) books donated to OBA, and which reflect the more than 300 languages spoken in the city of Amsterdam.

Thanks to the adjustments of the quiet rooms and theater halls, customer counters and the expansion of catering facilities we are able to expand our programming and opening times. This will enhance the collaboration with potential partners. This way the OBA remains innovative and inspiring for current and new visitors.

Martin Berends

OBA Director

Sustainability - reusing materials to help future-proof the library

We had initially been involved in the construction of the OBA Oosterdok in 2007 alongside architects Jo Coenen. For the renovation works, we provided a range of specialist consultancy services including water, mechanical, electrical, public health and fire engineering, as well as acoustics and lighting consultancy services.

Sustainability was a key design principle during the renovation work, giving existing materials a new lease of life: a load-bearing study determined that the building’s existing structure could sustain the new staircase that provides improved access to the theatre.

This in turn ensures a budget-friendly, circular economy-inspired extension of the building’s lifespan. We conducted a feasibility study to evaluate building and existing installations to understand whether the existing building could be easily adapted to accommodate new uses. The building uses a heat storage system in combination with highly efficient boilers. Outdoor air is used to cool the building, providing an environmentally-friendly, sustainable solution.

Flexible climate concept: designing sustainable solutions 

During the renovation, providing energy-efficient climate control was one of the key drivers. The building’s existing piping has been retained and new ventilators included: together with the floor’s existing grid layout, the spaces can be more easily adapted to suit different uses.

The grand entrance hall was retained, and is still a beautiful beacon of light. The designers made the most of the contrasted lighting to signpost the user journey: the central escalator section is artificially lit, transitioning towards natural daylight in the books area. Our lighting consultants also designed an array of solutions to ensure the spaces can be truly multipurpose, while introducing more sustainable LED luminaries throughout.