Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The 'Monkey Rock' Groningen

The building of the Gasunie (Gas Corporation HQ) or ‘Apen Rots’, (Monkey Rock) sits defiantly on the outskirts of Groningen in all its 87 metres of blue and sandy coloured glory. This is the head quarters where the distribution of natural gas is controlled.

Consisting of two wings each with seventeen floors, the two wings form one angle of a pentagram at 108 degrees with each other. At the adjoining point of these wings the complex is opened up by lifts and a staircase. The staircase leans on a column in the form of a tuning fork, the stairs of which are turned 4.5 degrees per floor. The effect created by the interior gives rise to the building being named the ‘Monkey Rock’. The building covers an area of 45.000 m² and, from initial design to completion, took from 1989 to 1994,at a cost of € 63,50 million.

The Gasunie was designed by architects Alberts & Van Huut Ltd., in Amsterdam. Their vision before starting a project is to envisage the human being as the inspirational starting point, and then to design around this idea, so that the building not only fits in with its landscape but with the city it is placed in as well. It is most important that its human occupants can relate to the building and feel comfortable as they use it, either as an environment to live or work in. 

This organic style of building started in 1925, and continues to the present day. The style of this expressionist movement can be found to have influences from Art Nouveau and the architecture of the anthropological movement. Use of the mathematical Golden Ratio or Phi is often used in the construction. Also the relation between exterior and interior as well as the use of natural materials and colours, as opposed to monotone colouring, are an important part of the style.

Other architects who not only used the organic style in their work, but also were inspired by man and the natural world were, Antoni Gaudi, as well as a few of the modernists, such as Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and Hans Scharoun.

© Alison Day

First published in the Connections magazine #11 Spring 2006 

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