The officers’ mess of the former military complex Kranenburg-Noord is one of the last tangible memories of Harderwijk as a garrison town. Because of its function as a dining room and banquet hall for high-ranking military personnel, it has always occupied a prominent place in the complex.


Currently in use by the cultural center MESS, the building is already a vital social and cultural function in Harderwijk. They organise events, art projects, workshops and lectures, providing a testing ground for innovative cultural entrepreneurs and being a meeting point in the city.


However, the building is currently in very poor condition and dire need of renovation. We have been tasked by the municipality of Harderwijk and the MESS, who have purchased the building from the Ministry of Defence in 2020, to come up with a strategic plan to restore the former appeal and charm of the building in the light of its future pivotal point as a cultural center and catalyst for the introduction of 200 homes in the former military complex.

Together with Mendel Robbers, a plan for the transformation was drawn up after an intensive participation process with the current user, local residents and the municipality.


The departure point for the new design is the building’s rich architectural history, which has shaped its current unique character through a series of renovations in 1948, 1954 and 1974. The new design is based on careful analysis of the building’s characteristics and builds upon the existing. With a thorough renovation and a series of strategic spatial interventions, the building and user will have a future that matches its impressive past.


Whilst the plan and exterior appearance of the building is symmetrical, its interior and designated functions have always been in big contrast from one side to the other. Whilst the Southern part, encompassing the dining room, was intended for everyday use and had a sober and practical interior, the Northern part was intended for festivities and high-ranking military personnel, which translated into a monumental interior.


The interventions will reinforce the contrast between the representative part of the MESS, which will be even more ‘dressed up’ with a restorative approach, and the functional part, which is even more ‘stripped down’ with a modern approach.


A feature of the building that is highlighted by all renovations is the distinction between the representative ‘front’ of the building, oriented towards the training ground, and the utilitarian ‘rear’. In the new design, the most radical change is giving the building a ‘second front’. On the sunny west side, the MESS will be extended with a kitchen and restaurant, aimed at attracting visitors coming from the city center. The formal front will be facing the residents of the new neighborhood. The design of the outdoor space, including artist work spaces, a generous terrace, vegetation and outdoor activities, has a direct relation to the interior spaces, creating seamless transitions between the two realms.

Location: Harderwijk, The Netherlands

Client: Gemeente Harderwijk / MESS

Program: Ateliers, exhibition space, workspaces, restaurant, kitchen, multifunctional space, terrace, vegetable garden, open air studio spaces.

Status: Start project 2021 Execution: 2024

Team: Jarrik Ouburg, Carsten Hilgendorf, Pedro Magalhaes

In collaboration with: Mendel Robbers

Consultants: Meerinzicht (building management), EWZ (installations), moBios consult (building physics), Groenewold Adviesbureau (flora and fauna)