The Gardens of PEN-dorp

A new life for the ideas of Abe Bonnema

A new residential area will soon be built in Alkmaar, on the site of the PEN-dorp designed by Abe Bonnema. The current buildings will be demolished, but the ideas behind the design will live on in the new neighbourhood. This makes De Zwarte Hond'’s Gardens of PEN-dorp plan a unique and challenging design.

Alkmaar is set to expand in a northerly direction over the coming years, into the so-called canal zone along the Great North Holland Canal. The Viaanse Molen business park will also change in character. Now PEN-dorp is becoming the first former office location to be transformed into a contemporary urban living environment.

PEN-dorp was built in 1982 as a business office for energy company the Provinciaal Elektriciteitsbedrijf Noord-Holland. This was largest office in Alkmaar. It was designed by Abe Bonnema as a village (dorp in Dutch), with structuralist buildings around a garden designed by Mien Ruys. De Zwarte Hond – into which Bonnema’s office was absorbed in 2012 – is now drawing up a plan for the redevelopment of the location on behalf of NH Development, a collaboration between HBB Groep and De Geus Bouw. Because buildings and landscape went hand in hand at the time, it was decided to collaborate, once again, with Buro Mien Ruys.

The Gardens of PEN-dorp plan transforms the introverted enclave into an extroverted “climate island” that combines urban and landscape qualities, where cyclists and pedestrians are central, energy is extracted from renewable sources, and greenery and water cool the public spaces. All this creates a new urban environment that is unique to Alkmaar and that meets the housing requirements of various target groups.

Although the current buildings cannot be saved due to their technical condition, the new plan strongly focuses on preserving the ideas used to create the design. The design principles that were used for PEN-dorp –
such as the convergence of landscape and architecture, an eye for the human scale and a sense of community –
are the foundations of the new plan. In addition, Mien Ruys’ garden will be preserved and restored, forming the heart of the new city district.

The design vision was presented to the city council on 10 February and was received with enthusiasm. “A large, beautiful and modern project in a sustainable neighbourhood,” said Alderman Christian Braak. De Zwarte Hond is now continuing to work on the urban design.