A Government Building So Beautiful You’ll Forget To Hate Paying Taxes

It’s green, too!

Most tax offices are about as charming as, well, doing your taxes. Leave it to UNStudio’s Ben van Berkel — an architect who made an NYC loft look like sculpture and a shopping mall feel like a museum — to design a government tax building that’s so cheerful, you’ll actually want to get audited.


No joke! The office in Groningen, the Netherlands, packs both tax headquarters and DUO, an education agency, into an asymmetrical tower done up in big white rings that give the place the marshmellowy exuberance of the Michelin Man. Indoors, you’ve got tons of light and splashy colors and what look like white lily pads thrown on the ceiling (we assume they’re some kind of sound dampener).

The idea: to portray a couple of bureaucracies that are pretty much universally loathed (if they’re anything like their American equivalents, in any case*) in a friendlier light. Per the press statement: “The architecture aims to present these institutions with a softer, more human and approachable profile. ?[T]he DUO and Tax offices deliberately cloak a commanding public institution in an organic, friendlier and more future-oriented form.”

Honorable enough, even if the wording makes it sound like the agencies are gonna go on being icky, just in better-looking offices. Anyways! Here’s the impressive thing: The building isn’t only about aesthetics. The whole thing is designed to exploit fresh technologies to meet strict environmental standards. A natural, high-pressure ventilation system pushes air in and out of engineering shafts and combines with grills in the facade on the 11th floor to cut the building’s overall heating and cooling demands. As for those Michelin Man rolls: They’re actually horizontal fins that pair with the aerodynamic shape of the building to control wind forces and heat gain, slashing the need for A/C (see the diagrams in the last two slides above for details). According to the press write-up, the tower is “one of the most sustainable office buildings in the Netherlands.” Pretty and green? Working there must be like getting a refund every year.

* A reader tells us that DUO is in fact “loved” in the Netherlands because it gives every student $365 a month! Taking notes, Department of Ed? (Thanks, Thijs!)

[Images courtesy of UNStudio]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.