Bries beach memoirs
A seasonal Dutch club shows how to pack it up.
Fabric Architecture | September 2012
By Mark Zeh
Recently a new type of trendy nightclub/restaurant has appeared on the coast of Holland: the beach club. The words beach club normally evoke thoughts of summer heat, light dress and casual eating fare, so it seems anomalous to imagine such clubs situated on the windward coast of the North Sea.
One of these is the beach club Bries (“Breeze” in English), located in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. It is a long, low shed-roofed, post-and-beam structure with glass infill along the sea view sides. The structure stands on concrete pads covered with wooden decking that extends out of the structure to form an exterior sundeck. Eight wooden service boxes are arrayed along the non-ocean side of the structure. These contain cooking, storage and preparation areas.
The interior of the structure contains retractable light curtain space dividers, allowing quick reconfiguration for various expected customer and staffing levels and events. The post and beam structural elements consist of composite weldings of stock steel profiles that have been double galvanized against corrosive attack from salt spray and wooden beam composites.
The beach clubs in The Netherlands are temporary structures—they are set up in March and taken down in October. By law they must be able to be erected, or removed, within a two-week timespan. They are stored and repaired over the winter. The concrete pad and threaded stainless steel mounts for the columns of the Breis remain onsite year-round.
“In 2008, we had the opportunity to create a new type of beach club for friends in Noordwijk, The Netherlands,” says Bart Akkerhuis, of Studio Akkerhuis in Paris, France. “The brothers Michiel and Martijn van den Berg had been running a small beach club selling hamburgers and things and needed to refurbish it.”
“It was great to work with clients who had such a clear vision, but who were also so open,” states Philipp Molter of studiomolter in Munich, Germany, architectural collaborator with Akkerhuis. “This enabled us to create a structure that is quite different than the other, rather traditionally-constructed clubs on the beach nearby.”
The double-skin roof of the structure is its most revolutionary feature. This consists of an upper fabric layer acting as a screen to absorb solar load and provide shade (Ferrari Soltis® in white) and a lower fabric layer acting to keep the weather out and allow light in (Ferrari Précontraint® in white). Both materials are PVC-coated polyesters.
The layers are separated by a minimum vertical distance of about 50cm, with the lower layer having a higher slope to promote drainage. The space between the membranes is open to allow air to naturally flow between the layers due to wind force and natural convection. This allows interior temperatures to remain constant despite varying solar loads and differing exterior temperatures.
“This concept is actually quite old,” explaines Akkerhuis. “You’ll find double-layered roofs widely used in the tropics and Africa, where people commonly build structures with a ‘shade layer’ and a ‘rainproofing layer.’ However, these structures are never executed with light-transmissive materials. We’ve executed the idea with modern materials and in a very challenging environment—our club must survive Force 12 winds (more than 73 mph)! Also, summer weather on the coast of Holland can change very rapidly from sun to rain. People can be comfortable inside the building while the temperature outside can vary between 16° and 35°C [61–95°F]. There is a heating system inside the club, but it’s rarely used.”
“The upper layer of the roof was very straightforward to design,” says Patrick Teuffel, of Teuffel Engineering Consultants, Stuttgart, Germany, structural engineer for the Bries project. “It’s simply eight panels of the mesh fabric tensioned by a simple rectangular framework.
“The biggest challenge in the project was really time,” says Akkerhuis. “This was eight months from concept development through a complete club on the beach in Noordwijk. This meant that we had to quickly arrive at a viable concept, find willing collaborators to co-develop and supply the components, and then construct the club on-site. The steel and membranes were made by Providus d.o.o. in Maribor, Slovenia. The wooden structural components were made for us by Duurzaam Projektmanagement KLH in Rosmalen, Austria. The wooden facade components were made in The Netherlands by Timmerfabriek Den Hollander B.V. of Noordwijk. All of these companies were able to quickly respond to our requests and co-developed the structure with us.”
“To me, one of the largest challenges was to design a structure that could be demounted every year,” says Teuffel. “This means that the fabric roof is de-tensioned, stored and re-tensioned every year—something that probably wasn’t foreseen in the design of these materials. But it’s four years old now and everything still seems to be going well.”
“Maintenance of this structure is another component of the sustainability story,” says Molter. “The roof is just fabric so there isn’t a lot of material involved if you need to repair or replace a piece. Also, the rest of the structure is made of lightweight steel or wooden components, all of which are rather simple. Every year the company that sets the building up replaces the corroded bolts and cleans everything. During the seasons of operation, sand is occasionally pressure-washed from the roof. Otherwise, it’s really quite cost-efficient to maintain.”