The Cath Spec Suites – Utrecht

  • Client Timeless Investments,
  • size 117,058 sqft
  • Year 2022
  • Location Utrecht, Netherlands,
  • Industry Spec Suite,
  • Fokkema & Partners created a modern and industrial space that still holds warmth for the Cath Spec Suites in Utrecht, Netherlands.

    The Cath, from non-space to sense of place
    An unknown, architecturally compromised building at a prominent location. A building with non-spaces that requires new cohesion and rediscovery of meaning. Who dares to breathe life back into this exceptional place? And is this at all possible in a sustainable way? Timeless Investments dared the redevelopment in the heart of Utrecht and entrusted the design to architects IDEA and Fokkema & Partners.

    IDEA restored unity to the building with respect for its original architecture. The historic building volume from the 1960s is recognisable again and is complemented by a glass structure on top of the building. The building named ‘the Cath’, is again an appealing entity and at the same time carefully fitted within the urban structure close to Utrecht Central Station, which has been subject to considerable development in recent years.

    Fokkema & Partners realised the interior and advised on the visual and physical connections in the design. The implementation of a complete and high-quality hospitality concept provides space for hosting, meeting, lunching and conferencing in this multi-tenant office. The strength of the integral design comes from both architects’ ambition to jointly create a strong spatial concept. By meeting each other at the interfaces between building and interior they became inextricably linked.

    Based on this shared vision, the building’s many limitations are not eliminated or glossed over but embraced and deployed as something unique and distinctive. The approach is non-conformist, honest and daring.

    For instance, the massive existing cores create closedness and a barrier between the building parts. But by unlocking them with voids and open staircase connections, they have become a powerful and recognisable element in the building. Its profiling enhances the experience of rawness and the multiplicity of concrete, with accentuating lines as cut-outs in black void edges.

    The basement with the restaurant is characterised by a forest of undesirable, massive columns. The columns are not denied, but rather strongly emphasised in the design. The interplay of lines on and between the columns makes the building structure readable and brings unity and connection. You no longer have the feeling of being in a basement but in a lively, urban grand café. There is deliberately an exciting contrast in the design; on the one hand a robust finish of the concrete and on the other warm sunny tones, soft fabrics, natural materials such as wood and a rich variety of plants.

    The experience of a non-space is transformed into a special space with a minimal but powerful design. You will not immediately oversee the whole, creating the possibility to discover and wonder.

    The design is characterised by surprise and dynamism; with communicating lines that connect spatially, with glass elevators that shoot past the central void, with vistas like in a doll’s house, with the addition of special construction in the form of cross columns, with an exciting contrast between raw and high-quality, and with various inspiring places where you suddenly get to know a piece of the building’s story. Above the coffee bar, for example, the characteristic concrete floor of the existing building is exposed. You can also discover inspiring references to ‘birds’ – a theme that has been with the building since its origins. On the façade, the original mosaic of two birds is shown in its full potential again, and in the central entrance hall, a flock of birds brings inspiring lighting.

    And this free and playful flight of birds symbolises precisely the positive stimulus that the building now unleashes; a sense of freedom and opportunities.

    Design: Fokkema & Partners
    Building Architect: IDEA Ontwerp
    Contractor: Pleijsierbouw
    Photography: Bram Vreugdenhil, Egbert de Boer