The imaginary and the real; designing and building the BP Office

by Edwin Larkens on November 3, 2010

[part 1]




Since January 2010 crowds of people have flocked the building site of the new BP refinery head office. Everybody was eager to start the construction works for the project, which has been worked on by a team of clients, contractors, consultants and us since 2007. The pure excitement of seeing the structure coming up and walking through the building which we have been thinking, talking and dreaming about for such a long time is absolutely incredible. This post forms the start of a series in which we share our excitement with you and give you an insight in why the building is the way it is. We will show photos of the building under construction and give you an insight into the design process off the BP office by comparing design studies to the built result through different stages of the building process. The images will be marked with a date so you can place it on the time line of the process of designing and building the BP offices.

This first post shows the real building under construction next to renderings which were used as presentation images. Making renderings with three dimensional animation software plays an important role in our office. It is not only useful for presentation purposes, it also gives us a great tool to study everything from a spatial concept to a specific detail like the thickness of a windowsill in relation to its context.




The image of the curved front facade was an important rendering. It shows how the building emerges from the artificial dune. The green hill hides the building from the road and continues on top of the roof of the offices. The facades are transparent to the north and become more closed towards the south to get the right balance between getting in daylight and keeping out the heat of the sun. The ground floor facade folds inwards to lead the visitors towards the doors of the front entrance.

BP | Exterior | Rendering |GROUP A

BP | Exterior | Site | GROUP A


A lot of aspects come together in the rendering of the over 100 meter long atrium. The building consists of two office volumes connected by an atrium. The picture shows the glass roof above the atrium with the two office volumes on either side, the wooden wall against the dune, the bridges connecting the two office volumes and a few of the meeting space boxes. We used and refined this image many times both in 3dViz (three dimensional drawing programme) and Photoshop to study aspects ranging from the materiality and detailing to placement of furniture.

BP | Atrium | Rendering |GROUP A

What’s next?

In the coming posts I will focus on specific aspects of the building and take you further into the project and its conception by showing photos, sketches, models and computer renderings.

Till then,

Edwin Larkens

Links to other posts in this series about the BP office:

Post 2 – The origins of the atrium wall

Post 3 – Geometric puzzles

Post 4 – Bridging the atrium

Post 5 – Making a hill

Post 6 – The office habitat

Post 7 – Reflections and refractions

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara Rojo November 28, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Congratulations! It looks pretty awesome! I hope I can visit soon and visit the site as well 😉


Edwin Larkens November 29, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Thank you Sara. The building will be finished in march 2011 and the interior in may 2011. Give us a call when you come back to the Netherlands!


gador December 10, 2010 at 2:34 am

wow! It’s amazing how it matches with the imaginary.
Next time that I go to Rotterdam I really want to have a look!!
great job! 🙂


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