Leather wall with an architectural appearance

Alphenberg was asked in 2019 to think about the use of the walls that were originally exterior walls but would become interior walls during the transformation of the KVL building.

It is no coincidence that this question came to Alphenberg. Previous projects that we have completed with great success include NACH, the new courthouse in Amsterdam. And the provincial government building in Antwerp. Two enormous projects that were successfully completed in little more than a year’s 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.

“Leather tiles make the connection over time”

Now, more than a hundred years later, the site is a multifunctional hotspot with plenty of space for living, working and relaxing. The choice of leather on the former outer wall was therefore a clear preference.

What was the question?

KVL is known as one of the most interesting historic industrial plants in the Netherlands. The old glory and rich history can still be found everywhere in the building.

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

Regardless of the desire to use leather, we were asked to think along and come up with a proposal based on two clear wishes. It had to fit perfectly into the old industrial style, but it also had to have a strong acoustic effect. Because you can imagine that such a large space with hard materials produces an enormous amount of reverberation.

And how did Alphenberg resolve this?

Two options were presented. The first followed the project in Antwerp naturally and the second one was custom developed by ourselves with appreciation for the old industrial style. The rhythm of the brick walls formed the basis for the panels. A kind of ‘cushions’ were mounted on top, which were successively covered with perforated leather, Vintage Raw, a very sustainable product from Alphenberg’s Zero line.

Hence, the tile met more than 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.

Beautifully in harmony in terms of shape and in terms of acoustics: a world of difference.

What was the biggest challenge?

You have to imagine that in such a building, of more than 100 years old, no standard and straight dimensions have been used. And because the perforation of the leather, the dotted pattern, had to appear continuous, we had to make every tile to size. Well, every tile is exaggerated, but within the 400 panels there are at least 20 variants. The corners, in particular, were a very complex task.

The result is certainly worth seeing. As if it has always been this way. And for the keen observer, a world of surprise opens up in the discovery that leather not only played the leading role 100 years ago, but that it now again plays a leading role, albeit in a different way, in this ensemble of the past and the present.

Products used in this project