The Building

The Building: Pleinotheek

Utrecht is dotted with special buildings, which you bike past regularly but know very little about. Take the Pleinotheek on Berlijnplein: another of RAUM’s casually chaotic initiatives.

On the site of RAUM’s ‘urban lab’  on Berlijnplein, there’s another small building. It’s very small, but the bright illuminated advertising on the roof makes it difficult to miss. This is the Pleinotheek, with shutters, floors, shelves and automatic doors on every side making it the ultimate kiosk. You can grab a coffee right from the street, borrow a book or a game, swap some stuff, exhibit your art, hang an advertisement or buy something small and more or less arty.

In line with the principles of RAUM, the ‘whats, whys and wherefores’ were decided by the local residents. In other words, RAUM is all about celebrating public space. As in the case of the Pleinotheek, the results (and development) of initiatives focus strongly on collectivity. So the first step towards creating the Pleinotheek involved pooling ideas put forward by locals and finding out how they wanted to use the square. As the principal users of the public space, they will be involved in all further programming.

The Pleinotheek was designed by La Bolleur, a firm that together with Fulco Treffers, has worked for RAUM in the past. However, the turquoise façade panels and industrial design make this multifunctional kiosk slightly less of a festival tent than some of the design office’s other creations. La Bolleur based its design on the structure of a sea container, on and in which, walls and cupboards can be hung as prefab elements. A modular system, which adds even more variety to the versatility of the building: the elements fit wherever you want them to.

A kiosk is a tried, tested and trusted principle. From 1900 onwards, they grew like mushrooms in parks and on town squares throughout the Netherlands, where they were used as sales outlets for fizzy drinks, flowers and newspapers. The Total Abstinence Association set up special kiosks to sell milk. The designs were always unique. The building style originated in Persia so at first, they were slightly oriental-looking. They later became more whimsical and modern.

Working on this small scale, famous architects like H.P. Berlage could use kiosks to take their designs further, testing the stylistic boundaries. The light-hearted exuberance of the Pleinotheek fits perfectly with this tradition, while at the same time, the practical shutters and shelves are ideal for the intended low-threshold local function.

The festive opening of the Pleinotheek is on 14 April 2024, RAUM, Berlijnplein. For more info see

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