NL Architects build a box as reflective as a cat’s eye

NL Architects Poortgebouw IPKW

NL Architects Poortgebouw IPKW

A lumber matrix, a concrete amoeba, and now this: a boxy glass and metal building. But this project isn’t as simple as it may first appear. The Poortgebouw IPKW is the secure entrance to a large technology campus in the Netherlands. The new gatehouse was designed by NL Architects and replaces a sky blue structure that had seen many better days. But the existing gatehouse could not be simply demolished and replaced because of the complex wiring that ran through the building. So the architects approached the design of this building with something akin to surgery, slicing off the exterior and subsequently opening the views of the guards from one lane of traffic to 360 degrees around the box.

NL Architects Poortgebouw IPKW

But what about the box? It’s clad in a retroreflective film, which creates the same effect as bicycle reflectors or cat’s eyes. Here the film is black and covers the top part of the box (which has a place for guards to eat, sleep and bathe). The film creates a surprising effect: reflecting back whatever color hits it. If you approach the box with your blinker on, the entire top half of the building will appear to pulsate orange. Stoplights along with streetlights can lend their color to the new security checkpoint, and the setting sun performs what the architects call a bit of “3M alchemy” by transforming the black surface into shimmering gold.

Alex Dent

October 17, 2012 / By

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