The former Royal United Leather Factories (KVL) in the Brabant Oisterwijk

Leather wall with an architectural appearance

In 2019, Alphenberg was asked to help think about the infill for the walls that were originally exterior walls, but would become interior walls when the KVL building was transformed.

It is no coincidence that this question reached Alphenberg. Previous projects that have been realized with great success by us include NACH, the new courthouse on the Zuidas in Amsterdam. And the provincial house in Antwerp. Both enormous projects, with a duration of more than a year, have been delivered very successfully!

Leather tiles are the connection in time

The site of the former Royal United Leather Factories (KVL) in Oisterwijk in Brabant is a unique place. The success story of Europe’s largest leather factory began here in the 1920s. Now, more than a hundred years later, the site is a multifunctional hotspot with plenty of space for living, working and relaxation. The choice of leather on the former outer wall was therefore a clear preference.

Broek/Bakema architects transformed the U-building into a particularly atmospheric and multifunctional complex.

What was the question?

KVL is known as one of the most interesting historical factory complexes in the Netherlands. You can still encounter the old glory and rich history everywhere in the building.

The old red brick walls in the atrium, now covered with a glass roof, were the challenge for Alphenberg.

Apart from the wish to use leather, we were asked to think along and come up with a proposal based on two clear wishes. It had to fit seamlessly into the old industrial style, but it also had to have a strong acoustic effect. You can imagine that such a large space with hard materials gives a lot of reverberation.

And how did Alphenberg resolve this?

Two options were presented. The first was in response to the project in Antwerp and the second was one that was custom developed by ourselves and with appreciation for the old industrial style. The pattern of the brick walls formed the basis for the panels. A kind of ‘cushions’ were mounted on this, which were successively covered with perforated leather. This means that the tile more than fulfilled all wishes. Beautifully in harmony in terms of shape and in terms of acoustics: a world of difference. It gives the atrium an atmosphere of peace and security. Without these acoustic panels it would have sounded hollow and restless.

The biggest challenge?

You have to imagine that in such a shell complex of an old building of more than 100 years, no standard and straight dimensions have been used. And because the perforation of the leather, the dotted pattern, had to continue, we couldn’t avoid customizing every tile. Well, every tile is an exaggeration, but within the 400 panels there are at least 20 variants. The corners in particular were a very complex task.

The result can certainly be seen. Like it’s always been like this. And for the sharp viewer, a world of surprise opens up when they discover that leather not only played the leading role 100 years ago, but that it now, albeit in a different way, also has a leading role in this ensemble of old to new.

Project U-building KVL

Location Oisterwijk, Netherlands

Client Polimeks 

GFA 13600 m² 

Start design 2018 

Delivery 2022 

Architect ir. Aldo Vos, Ir. Ruud van Ginneken 

Project coordinator Ir. Inge van Zuijlen 

Technical design Ing. Guido Hartman, Bouke den Ouden Ir. Marc den Heijer 

Interior architect Ir. Tessa Barendrecht (m.u.v. hotelinterieur) 

Description Transformation of a U-building into a multifunctional building on the site of the former Royal United Leather Factory. In collaboration with Polimeks (client), Huygen (installations and building physics) and Tielemans (construction)

Photography Peter Baas