From barracks to holiday village with eleven crazy things

hIt’s a bit like hunting for Easter eggs: little by little you discover the crazy things hidden on the Koningsweg estate near Arnhem. Look, there’s one, under the tree near the old radar tower: a small building like a stealth bomber, with black facades and an interior like an engine room. And there, among the treetops: a life-size birdhouse that you can climb up to via a spiral staircase. Further on, among the wild flowers, there’s a house disguised as a woodpile, and another that simulates a haystack.

There are eleven follies (literally translated: follies), structures that were originally intended solely to please the eye. The great thing about this elf is that you can also spend the night in it. Together they form a wonderful holiday village – the culmination of the redevelopment of Koningsweg from a barracks to a “cultural enclave” where people live, work and recreate.

About the Author
Kirsten Hannema prescribe from Volkskrant on architecture, landscaping and urban planning.

The story behind this metamorphosis is equally astonishing. It all began in 2005, when Rotterdam-born and raised landscape architect Harro de Jong moved to Arnhem. “For the landscape,” he says as he walks around the lush grounds, where he has an office in a former music chapel. “As a child I was already passionate about the Veluwe and the holidays we spent there. The good thing is that nature reaches from the north, via Sonsbeek Park, into the city. But I have noticed that the average Arnhemian doesn’t feel that way.”

‘For Peace’ ​​on sale

De Jong wants to know why and discovers that many green areas are protected because of their military function. This also applies to Kamp Koningsweg Noord, which is currently being sold “because of peace,” says artist and military heritage lover Hans Jungerius, whom he has become friends with. De Jong: “We thought: we have to have this, reveal it.”

De Jong and Jungerius present the project and convince the developer Kondor Wessels Projecten to buy the site. “We had to convince them because it was a large, dreary asphalt area with barracks,” says De Jong. It also has a fraught history; the complex was built by the Nazis during World War II.

To protect themselves from the enemy, they used camouflage techniques. Barracks and hangars took the form of farms and barns. To complete the illusion, they placed papier-mâché cows and horses in the surrounding fields.

Jungerius and De Jong want to make the military heritage “experienceable” for the public. Together with the architectural firm MVRDV, De Jong created a master plan in 2010 for the transformation of the monumental buildings into (around fifty) houses and studios. They draw the follies on the site of the demolished barracks, as a permanent architectural exhibition and a crowd-puller.

‘Hunting Lodge’ by Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architects.Image Loes van Duijvendijk

De Jong: ‘What I had in mind is the opposite of the post-war Ombloed district I grew up in. It is designed according to modernist urban planning principles where functions are separated. You live in a residential area, work in an office park and in the evening you sit back at home. Only when you have free time can you break the mould, only then will it be fun. How absurd! I wanted to create a place where these activities are intertwined and you always experience that feeling of a free holiday.’

Wildly romantic

How does the architecture contribute to this? “It is essential that there are hardly any private gardens or pavements,” explains De Jong. “The landscape is designed as one large shared outdoor space, although the houses each have their own terrace. The follies had to evoke a “tremendously romantic” feeling.” The designs were created through a design competition organised by De Jong and KondorWessels. They chose eleven winners from 65 entrants, who could buy the land with the obligation to carry out the design and rent out the folly for a certain number of days a year.

“We asked the designers to do something with camouflage techniques from the military and nature, so that the houses would somehow blend into the surroundings,” explains De Jong at the Hunting Lodge. This moss-green wooden cabin with shutters is set on legs, so that deer don’t notice it and can walk under it unhindered.

“We want to show how people and nature can coexist,” De Jong continues. “A requirement was that the designs were sustainable and inclusive of nature.” He points to the insect hotels hanging from the hunting lodge and the round façade that opens into the birdhouse, through which a vulture can easily fly. Bats can nest in the cracks between the wooden pieces of the façade.

‘Casamata’ by JCR Architects.Image Loes van Duijvendijk

On this sunny day, architect Jeroen Helder is putting the finishing touches to his bunker-like dug-out cabin. “The idea was to go so deep that you could look straight down to the floor level, at counter height,” he says, opening the hatch in the sloping thatched roof that leads into the Folly. Inside, the house opens up to the surroundings with a glass façade several metres high, on which a fat slug crawls. ‘In the artist’s impression, we drew a deer near the house, as a joke. To my surprise, there was a deer there the other day.’

This is possible because Koningsweg is now connected to the surrounding nature reserves. The barbed wire surrounding the site has been removed and De Jong has planted grass and heathland where there used to be asphalt. ‘Beyond the folly you reach the Deelerwoud and the Posbank. For the past four days schoolchildren have been walking around the site,’ says De Jong. ‘Isn’t that great?’ The owner of the adjacent ‘t Heuvelink estate is so enthusiastic that he has now removed the fences too.

Five outstanding follies

Under the radar

‘Under the Radar’ by De Kort Van Schaik.Image Loes van Duijvendijk

Inspired by the location near the former radar tower, architects Robert-Jan De Kort and Sander van Schaik designed the house ‘Under the radar’ like a stealth bomber, with black facades and a steel-heavy interior. There are three “military beds” on the first floor and a double bed with a panoramic skylight in the upper “cabin”.

Floating chapel

‘Floating Chapel’ by Kraft Architects.Image Loes van Duijvendijk

The small chapel was already there, but in a different location. The wooden building was dismantled and rebuilt by Kraft Architects, with the baptismal font converted into a kitchen island. The designers created a sleeping floor beneath the chapel. On one side it is excavated and on the other it has a mirrored glass façade that reflects the surrounding nature. This makes the chapel appear to float.


‘Haystack’ by Kraft Architects.Image Loes van Duijvendijk

Kraft Architects’ Huisje Hooiberg is a nod to the adjacent officers’ buildings disguised as farms, which have been transformed into apartments. If the black wooden façade on the ground floor is folded back, it becomes a terrace. Through the adjoining door, a staircase leads to the sleeping area in the hay area, with a roof terrace above.


‘Dolmen’ by Space Encounters.Image Loes van Duijvendijk

The architects at Space Encounters had a dolmen in mind when they designed this treehouse on elephant legs. One leg contains an outdoor kitchen, the other a staircase leading to the living space above. There, shutters hidden in the grey wooden slatted façade can be opened at the push of a button. A swing will be added to the roof’s lifting beam.


‘Woodstack’ by AAAN Studio.Image Loes van Duijvendijk

The house designed by Studio AAAN resembles a stack of wooden beams, but if you look closely you will see two door handles between the grained wood. This allows the closed gable to be opened, behind which lies a terrace that gives access to the (double) house through a glass façade. Even with the shutters closed, filtered natural light enters through the wooden façades.

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