Rob Wouters, North Holland Eye Centre

‘This building enables us to achieve our ambition’

Renewal starts with ambition: the ambition to offer the best eye care in the Netherlands. With full attention devoted to the client in an excellent, green, healthy and pleasant working environment.

To achieve that personal ambition, eye specialist and independent entrepreneur Rob Wouters needed an equally ambitious partner. And he found one in EGM architects. “This sustainable building enables us to achieve our ambition.” After working as an eye doctor in a hospital for many years, Wouters opened his own specialist eye clinic in the town of Heerhugowaard in 2010. “With an average of 50,000 patients and visitors a year, it was clear that the premises had become too cramped. We opted for a new building because we wanted to excel in one place. A place that fosters organic contact among colleagues and that welcomes patients in a friendly and personal way. We wanted a sustainable building that reflects our identity.”


New-build scheme with stature

Wouters was a little surprised that his relatively modest commission for a new building generated so much interest among renowned architecture firms. “It was the first time I had initiated such a project, and I didn’t know the market. So it was really special that the invitation was viewed as so prestigious. Evidently it was so ambitious that offices wanted to be involved.”

Sustainability was also very important to Wouters. “I wanted a zero-energy building in a green setting. Made of sustainable materials such as bamboo. The Building Code forces you to make all sorts of concessions. So what you need is an architect and contractor who can come up with creative solutions that do not lower the stated ambitions. In other words, that do not affect the design or installations.”


Common vision

Wouters and EGM shared a vision to realize a healthy and sustainable building that exudes commitment, professionalism and ambition. “Apart from the architecture, EGM looked carefully at the client’s sustainability wishes in terms of materials, installations, control technology and greenery. We wanted to keep parked cars out of sight, beneath the building. Achieving this with a raised bank of earth — a green mound on which the building is placed - was a fantastic solution. And on the roof of the car park, at the centre of the building, is a green patio. No matter where you are in the clinic, you always enjoy a view of this calm green space.”

We needed an architect to come up with creative solutions that did not lower the stated ambitions

Plenty of natural light

For the client and his team, natural light was vital in the design. “In the past, eye specialists usually worked in dim and dark spaces. But we actually wanted an open, spacious building with plenty of natural light. EGM and contractor Dick de Boer worked closely to fulfil this wish. An added bonus is the optical illusion created by making the window frames in various dimensions.”

Effortless work

“It’s only now that we are working in the new clinic that I fully realize how EGM helped us to achieve our ambition,” says Wouters. “We wanted to improve processes to make it as easy as possible to perform our duties. That places demands on the relationships between the required spaces. The architect worked hard to find the best possible solution, and that required intensive consultation. What do we need to do our job properly? After moving in, we were able to get back to work effortlessly. Nobody had difficultly settling in.”


Press pause

The move went so smoothly in part because of the close involvement of our staff during the process. “At a certain moment we even brought everything to a halt. Just so that all colleagues could reflect together on whether this really was the design that would make us happy. Is this what we were looking for? EGM showed great patience. It was a really wonderful moment in the collaboration. It made everybody realize that this was an organically evolving process in which ambitions had to culminate in a design.”


Ready for the future

The entrepreneurial spirit and striking architecture make the North Holland Eye Centre a landmark in an ambitious development plan by the municipality of Heerhugowaard. “We want this to become the leading eye clinic in the region,” Wouters points out. “Offering the best knowledge and expertise under one roof. Where we can express our vision that care should be rooted more firmly in the region, that collaboration between care providers is key, and that laws and regulations are part of our practice. We want to show the way in this area. Throughout the construction process we always sought to unite the building, the process and the organization.”


Maud van Gennip, writer and copywriter, interviewed Rob Wouters in October 2020

Project: North Holland Eye Clinic