shift architecture urbanism breaks ground on C-city in the netherlands
all images courtesy of shift architecture urbanism




construction on the arts district ‘C-city’, developed by shift architecture urbanism, has started in kerkrade. two public facilities will be erected alongside the existing discovery center continium: ‘cube’ and ‘columbus’. the former will host the first design museum in the netherlands, consisting of expos and labs, while the latter will house a unique performance hall in the shape of an inverse planetarium.

shift architecture urbanism city kerkrade netherlands
the museum quarter forms a gate for the district

shift architecture urbanism city kerkrade netherlands
section through both additions




‘cube’ is draped with a reflective curtain of polished aluminum. inside, it contains a glass plinth, creating the illusion of a mass hovering above the embedded terrain. together with the patio, it allows natural light into the temporary exhibition, which is located underneath to direct views towards the common areas. the various floor plates allow for labs and exhibitions to be interchangeable. above, the top floor offers a multipurpose event space with panoramic view over the context. the featured works will be curated by C-city along with the prestigious german red dot award, the design museum in london, and cooper hewitt smithsonian design museum in new york.

shift architecture urbanism city kerkrade netherlands
exhibition space under the floating cube

shift architecture urbanism city kerkrade netherlands
design laboratory




‘columbus’ is a spherical concrete building covered with a white coating, half of which protrudes above ground while the other half is hidden beneath it. the lower portion is occupied by the earth theater, where a 16-meter wide, hollow projection can be viewed from two rings of glass balconies. this architecture offers visitors the experience of an astronaut looking back towards the globe. meanwhile, in the upper portion, underneath the dome, the first national geographic 3D cinema in europe will show movies and documentaries produced by the iconic publication.

shift architecture urbanism city kerkrade netherlands
interior of the earth theater 

shift architecture urbanism city kerkrade netherlands
tunnel towards the planeterium





an important part of the communal activities is located in the 80-meter long black beam with protruding ribs, hovering above the sunken entrance zone. resting on a minimal amount of columns, the prism serves as a giant canopy for the pedestrian route from the train station through the museum district towards the town center.

shift architecture urbanism city kerkrade netherlands
bird’s eye view with the cross of pedestrian routes





these pure geometries and their omnidirectional orientations are a response to the amorphous and introverted character of the existing building. a large part of the 7,500 m² program is located underground: the sunken square, the main quality of the continium, will be extended underneath its relatives, creating a continuous landscape of restaurants, student labs, and tunnels connecting all the facilities. all stairs, walls, and floors are made of red concrete to emphasize and imply an excavation, which – together with the experience of descending – refers to the mining past of the city.

shift architecture urbanism city kerkrade netherlands
sunken square at the heart of C-city 

shift architecture urbanism city kerkrade netherlands
descending into the underground landscape 




together, these elements become a ‘museum without boundaries’: the institution transforms into a center for interaction in which visitors are regarded as participants rather than spectators, citizens who discover the world and their place in it through participation and debate. hence, in addition to the galleries, the facilities also offer rooms for conferences, events, workshops and education.

shift architecture urbanism city kerkrade netherlands
east-west route from the station to the city center 




with these additions, the town, which is located at the dutch-german border, will have an urban ensemble defined by clearly recognizable volumes, all connected by a vast, underground public space. the complex will mark the entrance into the city for both train passengers and visitors arriving by car from the main access road. the site will open its doors at the end of 2015, with a total budget of 20.5 million euro.

shift architecture urbanism city kerkrade netherlands
north-south route to C-square



project info:


client: continium (kerkrade, NL)
architecture and urbanism: shift architecture urbanism (rotterdam, NL)
project architects: thijs van bijsterveldt, oana rades, harm timmermans
team: pieter heymans, rene sangers, davide prioli, thomas grievink, dalia zakate
advisor construction: ABT (delft)
advisor building code and fire safety: bureau bouwkunde (rotterdam, NL)
advisor installations: bremen bouwadvies (heerlen, NL)
construction management: bremen bouwadvies (heerlen, NL)
contractor: mertens bouwbedrijf (weert, NL)
contractor installations: spie (elsloo, NL)
execution construction: van de laar (eindhoven, NL)



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.