Supreme Court of the Netherlands

Studio: KAAN Architecten
Authors: Kees Kaan, Vincent Panhuysen, Dikkie Scipio
Location: The Hague, The Netherlands
Collaborator: Rens van Hedel
Video: Dorian de Rijk, Christiaan van Leeuwen, Sabine Maas, Jordi Beukers, Alejandro Ramirez, Ella van der Woude, Marcello Sodano, Pedro van Leeuwen

General aspects: Distinguished and functional, hard and ethereal, rough and refined: the Supreme Court of the Netherlands exhibits a close relationship between openness and security. The iconic architecture elegantly integrates into the historic city center of The Hague, expressing the democratic constitutional principles through a clear and rational structure.

The main entrance is flagged by six bronze statues of legal scholars seated on pedestals, with a single pane of glass subtly marking the transition from the street to the interior. The building is firmly grounded on an earthy stone base, giving rise to a crystalline superstructure. The design organizes the functional requirements of the Supreme Court by dividing the volume in three horizontal layers: the plinth with public areas and courtrooms, the secured private working areas above, and facility services in between.

The entrance hall, the public area with the courtrooms and the press room, has double height ceilings that span the full length of the building. The floors and walls are of a light grey limestone that exudes a velvety texture. The large and small courtrooms, which hold 400 and 80 visitors respectively, are distinguished by brown-veined translucent alabaster walls.

On the upper floors, open atriums form the core of the distinct domains of the Council and Procurator General. The two departments are identified using different materials: a vertically striped Marmara Equator marble in the Council, and an organic Skyline marble in the Procurator General Office area.

Why did you choose this category?: Given the public nature of jurisdiction, court buildings need to be accessible to the public. They are not only open to the public, they also have facilities for the public, visitors’ galleries in the courtrooms and waiting areas in front of them. On the other hand, they must also provide excellent conditions for work that requires a high degree of concentration and work that takes place behind closed doors. The Supreme Court has the additional requirement that it must represent a distinguished institution that plays a key role in the rule of law.

The building is connected to the city and anchored in society, but also provides space and silence for research and reflection. Its position on Korte Voorhout offers an excellent opportunity to express this duality. On the threshold between Haagse Bos and the political center of the Netherlands around Binnenhof, the building and its activities both relate to the public domain on a strategic site and provide the needed security and seclusion.

The statues, positioned exactly in front of the big court room, create the sense of a public interior in front of the building. They blend into the architecture of the building, are present in the public space, and connect the contemporary to the tradition.

The transparency of the building signifies both accessibility to the public as well as the soundness and clarity of judgment. In the ‘houses’ of the Council and the Procurator General the voids mark the hearts of the collective spaces inside the building.