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De Caai Melkfabriek

The Netherlands, Eindhoven

In 2020, Geva Vastgoed acquired the Milk Factory and the Ice Factory on the former Campina site in Eindhoven. Together with Harrie van Helmond Architecten we have been commissioned to transform these monumental buildings from a factory into a mix-use ensemble with the theme of Future Food, health and social design. Niels Olivier Architect is responsible for the Milk Factory, where the milk production took place from 1960 to 2015.
The Milk Factory is a beautiful example of Dutch post-war reconstruction architecture; large glass facades provide a fresh and light working environment, the concrete construction is rational and recognizable, and the fusée roof* is cost- and material-saving.
The original building plans were made by an engineering firm called Héman. The aim was to build a mainly functional factory building and they hired architect Jean Huysman to assist on architectural matters. Huysmans had some experience in building churches, which clearly influenced his design of the Milk Factory.
The Milk and Ice Factory are part of the redevelopment of the Campina site, nowadays called the Caai, which includes the transformation of the old factory buildings, as well as the integration of new residential buildings.
The main plan is designed by Delva Landscape Architects together with Studio Nine Dots.
Mei Architects and Planners, Kaan Architects and LEVS are responsible for the residential towers and blocks.
entree Melkfabriek Eindhoven
Grote hal Melkfabriek
​Together with the Ice Factory, the Milk Factory will be located on a “monument island”. The floor level of the factories is somewhat higher than the surrounding ground level as a result of their previous use. This difference in height is used in the landscape design by incorporating stairs, seats and greenery in the public space.
Despite its former industrial function, the Milk Factory (temporary used as a popular location for the Dutch Design Week and other creative and innovative exhibitions) has an almost church-like character due to the large glass windows and the high central hall. The challenge is to maintain this character.
First of all, we do everything we can not to divide the grand central hall (13 meters high) into boxes. In the past, huge silos were set up here, but now it will be a communal courtyard in which you can find separate box-in-box office units and flexible workspaces.
Because of the concrete structure mostly clad with tiles, one of the main issues turning this factory into a comfortable office space has been the bad acoustics. We found the solution in using clear, white sound absorbing panels to fill in the oak window frames of the interior walls. To protect this soft material we let it overgrow by climbing plants on a stainless steel mesh. The strings of the mesh align with the joints of the original tiles.
On the first floor, the central hall has a large balcony over the entire length. The milk used to come in here and was routed through the factory, but now it becomes the “blue-green” corridor. An (experimental) pond of almost 40 meters long.

Where possible, original details which tell  the story of the former use are to be preserved. The white tiles for example on the parapets and the floor of the inner garden (that were easy to keep hygienically clean) will become a characteristic feature. Also the stainless steel stairs and walkways are preserved and/or reused. And because the central hall is not going to be filled with high walls and new floors, you still have a full view of the beautiful fusée roofs* (semi-circular, concrete shell roofs) with skylights everywhere.
The milk factory, which was built in by anonymous steel industrial halls, is set completely free again and the characteristic vertical concrete frames in the facade, which go from floor to ceiling, are renovated and even reconstructed.
In a couple of places, where the original facade has been demolished in the course of time to hoist silos inside, there is an opportunity to indicate the transformation. Here the concrete posts are reconstructed in glass. Which enables a spectacular view from the inside over the skyline of Eindhoven.
The entire building will have HR++ glazing and an insulated shell. Energy label A+++ is pursued during the transformation. Finally, the entire facade regains its original white color, people already speak of the “white cathedral”.
* Fusée roofs

The characteristic arches of the halls are designed as so-called Fusée roofs. A roof construction, mainly used in the Netherlands in the 1940s and 1950s in industrial halls. It is an ancient construction principle, which was already used by the Byzantines. The principle consists of hollow cylinders, which taper in one end to fit into the next cylinder. In this way, strings are created that connect in an arc-like manner. During construction, the arched roofs are temporarily supported by mobile steel or wooden molds until the concrete layer on top of strings has hardened and the steel rods are installed. Because no beam construction is required and a separate ceiling construction is not necessary, an advantageous building volume is achieved. Moreover, roof lights can be installed simply in the direction in which the cylinders are fitted. Fusée roofs combine high structural strength with a low own weight. The thermally insulating effect of the fusées is (certainly by the standards of that time) a plus. The use of materials is also very efficient. The result is durable and cheap construction.
Project data:

Geva Vastgoed
Eindhoven (NL)
Industrial; Transformation
8 100 m2
Niels Olivier, Harrie van Helmond, Boryana Kondeva, Vittoria Marino, Arvid Schoots
Van de Laar (engineering), Het Groenlab (planting)
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