This large former train repair ‘shed’ of elegant steel and glass has been saved by officially turning it into a monument. Together with Civic and Braaksma en Roos Architectenbureau, Inside Outside developed a plan that respects and protects the buildings beauty and roughness. A landscape of stairs running from East to West fold into several floors, into which openings are cut to bring light into the spaces underneath. Three pairs of curtains, hanging from roof to floor, create flexible rooms within this folded landscape. The LocHal gives new meaning to the function of a library in the digital age.
Perhaps the most conspicuous feature of the new LocHal is its sheer size. With a footprint of 90 x 60 metres and a height of 15 metres, LocHal is both imposing and inviting, occupying a central position in the developement of an area that covers 17h. in the center of Tilburg. For 150 years Tilburg’s Spoorzone was the ultimate workshop of the Dutch Railway. Now a library and creative workplaces was realized here in the former Locomotive Hall. The team of  Civic, renovation specialists Braaksma & Roos Architectenbureau and Inside Outside has created an integrated spatial concept that connects inside and outside, the interior and the urban landscape. The new library was deliberately designed to be an extremely accessible building. The entrance hall takes the form of a covered city square where the new program represents itself as an inviting staircase - “a Forum” - inside these gigantic industrial halls. On the stair-landscape different scenarios can play simultaneously: a lecture, an exhibition, a workshop or quietly reading. The program of the Forum is conducted by three pairs of custom-woven curtains, hanging over the full height of the hall, which define temporary spaces for specific uses and thus allow the forum to remain open in its entirety.
Since September 2017, Inside Outside and the TextielMuseum/TextielLab have been working together on the design and realisation of the six large-scale curtains. Each curtain is made of two opposite planes, consisting of a densely woven, canvas cloth-like part and a soft, transparent, voile-like part. The dense parts are woven according to a jacquard-based technique, giving each side its own colour. Every time  the curtains slide from one position to another, ever-changing effects of light and atmosphere in the room arise.
The new architectural design is a contemporary reinterpretation of that of the original late-industrial building, dating from 1932, and builds upon the logic of that design. The impression of spaciousness is strengthened by new sightlines across the diagonally stepped interior landscape. Columns, floors, balustrades and the textile screens form the ‘grand gestures’ of the various axes within the spatial system: directly up, behind and to the sides, a reference to the industrial processes of the past. The original riveted columns have been preserved and are joined by large supporting structures in a more abstract form which delineate the side aisles they create.
The atmosphere of the building is that of a productive knowledge institute. The main structure, various original features which have been carefully preserved and the new additions make use of  ‘honest’ materials such as black steel, concrete, glass and wood, applied over large surfaces. Floors, columns and stairways reveal their characteristic textures when viewed at close hand, especially in daylight when the refined shadows created by the intricate window frames and translucent textile panels play upon them. After dark, the building is turned ‘inside out’, with the interior becoming the main source of light: an inviting beacon in the city center.
Reviving collective history
The Dutch Railway company has been of great importance in the growth of the late-industrial city of Tilburg at the beginning of the 20th century. This large workshop area has been employing many inhabitants, and had a crucial role in defining the city’s profile, which is still known as a ‘labour’ city within the Netherlands. The area has been hermetically closed for public until the last hours of operations in 2011, and stories about the great train works, the machines, the sounds, and the smell have been circulating through families for generations. The main workshop building, named the LocHal, is the emblematic icon that represents this history.
By converting the vacant structure into a public library, the most generous type of public building, and at the same time creating space to work, its story of ‘steel and sweat’ is brought back again to the greater public and future generations. That which has defined the city and its people has now become the heart of public life in a new form, and can once again define the development of the city in the next era, built from its roots.
A roofed public square
Public libraries have been subject to evolution since the first scientific libraries have been founded. They have been functioning as a democratic instrument to educate the people and fight illiteracy, a place for opinion and public debate, for leisure and for artistic expression. In the age of digitization and global information exchange, new definitions are needed, which go beyond the introduction of new media and the fact that a library is a public place for gathering. LocHal library answers to this need by introducing a set of themed laboratories for developing knowledge and skills through activities and guidance. These labs transform the library from a place for inspiration and information to a place for comprehension and creation.
At the same time the flexible work space has sky-rocketed in a digital society where work can be done anywhere, where (global) interaction and multi-disciplinary collaboration is key, and where environmental consciousness steers people towards temporary, shared spaces.
FACTS & FIGURES
Commissioning client                                                     City of Tilburg
Total project area                                                          11200 m2
Lead architect                                                  Civic Architects
Transformation and restoration       Braaksma & Roos Architectenbureau
Interior and landscape design, textiles        Inside Outside|Petra Blaisse
Interior design library & offices                                  Mecanoo
Advisors to City of Tilburg
Construction management t                                       Stevens van Dijck Bouwmanagers & Adviseurs
Technical consultancy                                                Arup
(structural design and engineering, installation technology, sustainability, lighting, fire safety, acoustic design)
Lead contractor                                                           Binx Smartility
Design drawings and installation                      Inside Outside/Petra Blaisse (NL)
Woven sections                                              Tilburg Textile Museum (NL)
Canvas sections and installation                       Seilemaaker (NL)
Assistant canvas sections                                 Gerriets France (FR)
Monofilament sections                                     Theatex BV (NL)
Rails and motorized system                              Gerriets Gmbh (DE)
Installation and software                                 Levtec (NL)
Bibliotheek Midden-Brabant (public library),
THE CORE DESIGN TEAM:
Civic Architects specializes in public buildings. We design libraries, bridges, theatres, concert halls, art galleries, museums, civic buildings, squares, schools, residential complexes, sculptures and stations. We believe that architecture is a public interest. All buildings form part of the human environment in which people live, work and interact. Our designs therefore respect and anticipate social, cultural, economic and ecological requirements. Civic currently has a staff of ten architects led by four managing partners. We approach each design on various levels of scale and always work with and alongside the best specialists. The result is functional and aesthetically responsible architecture which will serve the needs of generations to come.
Braaksma & Roos Architectenbureau
Braaksma & Roos Architectenbureau is a leading expert in the repurposing of unique industrial heritage. For over 35 years, we have dedicated ourselves to complex transformation and renovation projects in which we incorporate appropriate contemporary design elements. Based on an in-depth understanding of the unique characteristics of each building or site, our team seeks creative, sometimes surprising, solutions. We therefore create the optimum balance between the values of the past and the requirements of the future to ensure meaningful and sustainable usage.
Inside Outside|Petra Blaisse Inside Outside/Petra Blaisse is a multidisciplinary design agency founded by Petra Blaisse in 1991. It specializes in interior and landscape architecture and has extensive experience in exhibition design. Petra Blaisse has been involved in designing architectural exhibitions since 1987 and is well known for her use of large-scale textile screens in public buildings, art installations and – on occasion – private homes. Inside Outside has an international client base. Alongside its design activities, it also runs lectures and workshops for students at home and abroad. Two partners joined the firm in 2016: landscape architect Jana Crepon and architect Aura Luz Melis.