The renovation of a 1970s building in the Netherlands which once housed a police station, was undertaken by the practice of KAW Architecten. The project was to create a haven, a place of safety for 48 girls who had been subjected to the horrors of abuse and forced prostitution through the heinous acts of human traffickers. As the building was typical of its decade, a badly insulated block, the designers set out to raise the standard to the ultimate certification of energy efficiency, that of Passive House status.
Veilige Veste, which means ‘safe fortress’ is exactly that. The three storey structure has been ‘wrapped’ in a protective shell of diamond faceted 3D shiny material in which the surrounding trees are reflected. The wooden paneling of the administration offices on the ground floor gives the upper levels a ‘floating fortress’ appearance. The residential areas are above the ground level and are topped by an enclosed patio area a feature of many Italian homes and a central meeting place for family and friends.. The intimate space is faced in the contrasting elements of wood and bronze and constitutes a place where the girls can experience a sense of being outdoors in a private area which they can call their own.
The head architect of KAW, Italian born Beatrice Montesano, was inspired by the sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino and his statue of the vested Christ in her hometown of Naples, in addition to the ‘wrapped up’ work of artist Christo.