by Shristi NangaliaJun 17, 2020
Across the busy The Hague Central Station in the Netherlands, a 'space age airport for cyclists' transforms the everyday experience of parking a bicycle into that of exploring a museum. The space, carrying room for approximately 8,000 bicycles and rental bikes, is one of the world’s largest underground bicycle parking garages conceived by two Dutch design practices – The Hague-based creative agency Silo, and Studio Marsman – an architecture firm operating from Delft.
At a time when the world is grappling with several climate challenges in addition to a protracted pandemic, the Netherlands is recognised for its sustainable style of urban living, particularly its cycling culture. As of 2019, over 22 million bicycles including 2.4 million electric bikes ran in the country where roads constituted 32,000 kilometres of cycle lanes. The Dutch are known to be so obsessed with cycling that it is said that most people keep more than one bike for themselves – an old forgotten model for running daily errands and a chic two-wheeler for work and other formal spins around town.
Silo, a creative agency working with branding, digital design and spatial design, helmed by partners Rene Toneman and Dennis Flinterman, looked at reinforcing the urban mobility network as well as the comfort and safety for thousands of daily bicycle users with bicycle garage project at The Hague. "The Netherlands," the design team explains, "leads by example by constructing storage facilities that help to incentivise cycling, especially in conjunction with mobility hubs. […] Many bicycle parking facilities are underground. Moving bicycle parking off the street level creates a more pleasant public space. However, low ceilings, a lack of daylight, repetitive layout and no views of the surroundings make underground parking usually very unpleasant." The garage in the Hague is designed as an attraction not to be missed as against appearing like a place one would rather avoid. A key focus has been given to the brief journeys that bicycle riders take when they navigate the space hunting for a spot to park their vehicles.
A unique visual intervention in the garage's interiors elevates the overall experience of the users. People enter into the space through a back-lit glass wall that reveals one continuous artwork illustrating the architecture of the Hague. Describing this piece as "a luminous metamorphosis inspired by the works of Dutch graphic artist, MC Escher," Silo’s Creative Director Rene Toneman says, “Facade elements of iconic buildings are subtly woven together into a 1,040 square metre large, awe-inspiring urban landscape. […] As you cycle past it, you experience the city’s skyline in one smooth movement. With more time, you can explore all individual referenced buildings.”
Toneman continues, "Using a coarse grain and different hues of greys make the artwork look like an actual pencil drawing while allowing for an even diffusion of light. The angle of light in the illustration matches the actual light behind it, dramatically enhancing the appearance of depth."
The design quotes historic buildings such as the Ridderzaal, the Peace Palace, and the Kunstmuseum by Berlage; projects by esteemed architects such as Richard Meier, Bernard Tschumi, Hans Kollhoff, Cesar Pelli, KPF, Kraaijvanger, Rudy Uytenhaak, Benthem Crouwel Architects, MVSA, Zwarts & Jansma Architects, and OD205; and future projects by Powerhouse Company, JCAU and NOAHH.
When users return, walking past the Escherian cityscape helps them intuitively locate their bike within the garage. Together with the experiential graphic design, extra high, bright white ceilings, smart directional markings, and spacious aisles contribute to distinguish the space from conventional parking complexes.
As per Toneman, the definitive exits of the garage have been integrated into a mixed-use development above ground comprising residential towers, commercial spaces and a central square. The idea has been to combine these facilities with the garage to create a welcoming entrance into the city. In view of this high-rise constructions, Bicycle Garage The Hague remains temporarily closed.