Façades of The Hague #138

Seven blocks of flats along 2de Sweelinckstraat, Lübeckstraat, Valeriusstraat, Stadhouderslaan and Stadhoudersplantsoen.

Designed by Jan Wils (1891-1972), they were built in the 1950s.

The German occupation left deep scars in The Hague.

The building by the Germans of the Atlantic Wall (the Antlantikwall) along the western European coast left one of the most significant scars still visible today.

Parts of the western suburbs of the city were demolished by order of the Germans for the building of the defensive wall.

Not just the houses were destroyed, social and suburban structures were erased too.

Part of the project was a deep anti-tank-trench which ran amongst others through the present Stadhoudersplantsoen.

After the Germans left, different plans were made to rebuild the area.

A plan by architect and urban planner Willem Dudok (1884-1974) to restructure the area was taken as the base for renewal.

Dudok, of course, was a famous modern architect in the Netherlands.

Architect of the wonderful and still functioning Hilversum Town Hall, he was also renowned for his achievements in urban planning already before the War.

Dudok however didn’t design any of the new buildings in this area when restructuring post-war The Hague.

Jan Wils was one of the architects who made designs for the new buildings.

Wils, during his long career, started out with Jugenstil.

When he was in his twenties he moved to The Hague where he worked for Hendrik Petrus Berlage, probably the most influential Dutch architect during the Interwar period, and responsible, amongst others, for the design of the (nearby) Gemeentemuseum, now Kunstmuseum.

Through Berlage he discovered the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, which had a great influence on him.

Wright’s work strengthened his idea that man and his surroundings should be central in architecture and not architecture itself.

For a short time he was associated with Theo van Doesburg and De Stijl.

Already before WWII he was engaged in social housing construction and designing residential buildings in general.

As such he is seen as one of the founders of the so-called Nieuwe Haagse School (New Hague School).

Therefore the choice of Wils as one of the architects for the restructuring of this area was obvious.

His low blocks of flats in a lush green area, were a clear modernist break with the original 19th century idea of chic façades along the street with private backyards and very limited public space.

© Villa Next Door 2021

All pictures were taken in March 2020.

Bertus Pieters

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Façades of The Hague #137

Bridge in Laan van Meerdervoort over the Verversingskanaal (Drain Channel) in between Conradkade and Suezkade, usually called Conradbrug (Conrad Bridge).

In 1937 this bridge was built to give a more solid base for the increasing and heavier car traffic in The Hague’s main western thoroughfare.

In the background Cornerhouse

The bridge was designed by Antoon Pet (1885-1954) who, as a structural engineer and architect, was a civil servant in The Hague from 1919 until 1951.

Right in the background the first floors of Panoramaflat

It is a very robust bridge and at the time it was the biggest bridge (at a hundred feet) in The Hague.

It is still a local landmark, as are the two modernist buildings at the north side of the bridge: Cornerhouse (Jan Grijpma, 1929) and Panoramaflat (Piet Zanstra, 1962).

The bridge is embellished with different features, like a strange place inscribed with MANNEN (MEN), which may remind you of a forgotten war monument, but which are probably the remains of a public toilet. [Scroll down for a reaction by Casper de Weerd]

The bridge has also been provided with some sculptures, which was a fine tradition before WWII.

At the north side is a sculpture by Joop van Lunteren (1882-1958) of a boy with a toy sailboat made of a Dutch clog.

Wooden shoes were still in common use by the time.

A boy making a toy sailboat can be seen as a symbol of human, in particular Dutch and male endeavour.

It adds to the symbolism of the then modern bridge as well.

In the middle of the bridge is a monumental granite sculpture by Dirk Wolbers (1890-1957) called Veilig in’t verkeer (Safe in Traffic).

It represents a mother ready to steer her daughter and son through the busy traffic.

The traffic itself is symbolised by two small toy-like cars.

She stands there as an attractive young mother preparing her children for life in modern traffic in particular and in modern times in general.

As such they cross the bridge towards the future.

As for Wolbers himself: he died in a car crash.

At the south side of the bridge is another sculpture by Van Lunteren, representing a girl with a rabbit.

As a pendant of the boy with the sailboat at the other side, she obviously symbolises feminine compassion with creatures that need our care.

As such the whole bridge has become a symbol of modernity with traditions that have changed as a result of that modernity.

© Villa Next Door 2021

All pictures were taken in March 2017.

Bertus Pieters

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Façades of The Hague #136

Blocks of social housing Jacob Catsstraat, corners Albert Cuypstraat and Hoefkade, west side of the street. Most of the neighbourhood dating from the end of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century was broken down in the 1980s and new housing was built.

The blocks on these pictures were designed by Álvaro Siza (1933), who had a good reputation in co-operating with future inhabitants of social housing projects, in collaboration with architects Jeroen Geurst (1960) and Rens Schulze (1960).

They were built in 1989-1993. In the rigorous façade of the block Siza very much stuck to the Dutch 19th century urban tradition of red-brown bricks and the Hague tradition of recesses with steep stairs in the façades.

© Villa Next Door 2021

All pictures were taken in March 2017.

Bertus Pieters

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Façades of The Hague #135

Office building, Lange Voorhout.

It was designed by architect Jo Limburg (1864-1945) and built in 1910 for Martinus Nijhoff publishers and booksellers.

Limburg was an architect from The Hague and responsible for some remarkable buildings in this city, such as Herengracht 9 (1915-1916), Maerlant-Lyceum (1926), the building in which the present day restaurant of the Mauritshuis Museum is (1930), and a few others in which Limburg’s development from a more or less neo-classicist to a more modernist style can be seen.

As a Jew he was forced to go into hiding during World War II. He probably died while in hiding during the Bombing of the Bezuidenhout in 1945.

This particular façade is also a token of the lifelong friendship of Limburg and artist Willem van Konijnenburg (1868-1943) who designed the six remarkable sculptures which decorate the building.

There doesn’t seem to be a particular meaning to the individual figures. (If there is, please tell)

They all look neo-renaissance and they may be connected to thinking, philosophy, wisdom, priesthood, etc. but they carry no attributes as such.

Nowadays only the façade of the building remains as a state monument, the building behind it is new and it accommodates the Onderzoeksraad Voor Veiligheid (OVV; Dutch Safety Board).

© Villa Next Door 2021

All pictures were taken in March 2017.

Bertus Pieters

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Façades of The Hague #134

Façade of a narrow building with apartments and a shop, Wagenstraat.

It was built around 1900 in the then current decorative style.

Architect was one J. Latour, who has obviously built more in The Hague, but who seems to have vanished from history, as nothing can be found about him.

© Villa Next Door 2021

All pictures were taken in March 2017.

Bertus Pieters

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Façades of The Hague #133

House with a so-called neck gable, Wagenstraat. The building itself dates back possibly to the 16th century, but was obviously rebuilt in 1683.

It is probably one the oldest buildings in Wagenstraat. The shopfront is of a much later date (as is its use). The building is a state monument.

© Villa Next Door 2021

All pictures were taken in March 2017.

Bertus Pieters

Façades of The Hague from #72 onwards: https://villanextdoor2.wordpress.com/category/facades-of-the-hague/

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Façades of The Hague #132

Railway flyover at the eastern end of Vaillantlaan.

Already in 1896 it was taken into account that a viaduct would be needed instead of the then usual railway crossing.

In 1924 (in spite of all modernisation the wheels of time turned slowly) a flyover was built.

Street level had to be lowered for it, such that the place became known as De Put (The Pit), also because it soon became a nasty place for rainwater that didn’t drain off.

With the expansion of the railway line to Delft and Rotterdam the flyover had to be renewed, which was done in 2009.

The present viaduct is higher, broader and lighter in its construction than its predecessor.  

© Villa Next Door 2021

All pictures were taken in March 2017.

Bertus Pieters

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Façades of The Hague #131

Façade of a house with apartments, Dunne Bierkade.

Originally built around 1700 it has undergone some changes which have given it today’s stylistically rather odd facade, with a plastered top-floor and its remarkable window frames.

© Villa Next Door 2021

All pictures were taken in March 2017.

Bertus Pieters

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Façades of The Hague #130

Due to a navigational mistake and bad weather the British RAF bombed residential areas and the northern entrance of the city centre of The Hague on 3 March 1945, just two months before the end of the German occupation..

It was hard for a city that had just survived one of its cruellest winters in terms of sheer cold and hunger.

Many lost their homes and the city centre itself lost part of one of its poshest streets, Korte Voorhout  

In fact the whole plot in between Korte Voorhout, Schouwburgstraat, Casuariestraat and Prinsessegracht was damaged and partly in ruins.

It is characteristic for a small city like The Hague that they were the ruins and damaged buildings of a court of justice, a theatre, a church, a jail, the Royal Dutch Automobile Club (KNAC) and a clinic, amongst others.

After the war the government wanted to have a new ministry, preferably a double one, of Justice and Finance, but decision making was stalled.

Only in the 1970s the present Ministry of Finance (Ministerie van Financiën) was built.

The huge building can be seen as symbolic for the power of the Ministry of Finance within the government.

More than ever it became clear that any political idea had a price tag, especially when society became socio-economically more and more sophisticated.

The building was designed by state architect Jo Vegter (1906-1982; who was not just responsible for modernist building but also for the restoration of quite a few old Frisian churches) and his assistant Mart Bolten (1916-2002) in strikingly modern brutalist style.

When in 1977 i went to study at the Royal Academy, just a few steps away from the Ministry, it was still a remarkably forbidding concrete palace.

The outlook of the concrete itself was only softened a bit by the prints of wood structure in it.

It was the impressive fortification of the state’s financial power.

Any Minister of Finance residing in that building must have had the idea of being a king in both a palace and a fortification.

In fact the inside of the building was a lot softer than that.

As art students we could see that, when the ministry offered rooms to show some of our graduation works, as the Royal Academy had a notorious lack of space at the time.

Enlightened civil servants would walk around amongst the works of these students who were training for a financially completely irresponsible future.

I’m not quite sure if the civil servants were really interested, but to them it was undoubtedly a nice diversion just before the summer break.

Coming to think of it, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if the Ministry would again give some space to students, who, for instance, would like to graduate with a performance or something like that.

Preferably with participation (obligatory!) of the audience.  (Surely, it would be beneficial to the dialogue between art and society if students were able to show their works in both public and private institutions and in public space around the Royal Academy. But that’s probably easier said than done)

Although the building had a very modernist outlook, it was technically outdated within a few decades.

There were no double glazed windows and the whole inner climate had to be completely renewed to make the building more cost-effective.

The normal Dutch reflex in such cases is to abandon the building, keep the workers in a temporary but even worse place for years, and make plans to build a new and far more prestigious architectural colossus somewhere else.

Usually, making plans will cost quite a while, sometimes years, but in case of this building it was decided it was to be refurbished, and reused.

The uniqueness of the building played a role in that decision too.

It was decided that the original design would be maintained.

However, a lot of postmodern glass was used to give the building a more open character.

Also the courtyard has been opened to the public.

Redesigning was done by Meyer and Van Schooten architects.

The official entrance at Korte Voorhout has been made more welcoming with colours by monumental artist Jan van der Ploeg (1959).

But don’t be mistaken: any political novelty may fall when civil servants in this palace strongly advise their minister that costs and benefits of the idea are not at all in balance, if the minister didn’t already have that idea.

After all, the philosophy is still that money should be spent on those who have the power to spend a lot themselves, while some drops of their honey will then trickle down to those living in the mud.

However, with different social and political crises at the same time, and a review of the Dutch civil service, that might become less normal than it sounds. Let’s hope so, or at least, let’s hope for the better.

© Villa Next Door 2021

All pictures were taken in March 2017.

Bertus Pieters

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Façades of The Hague #129

Southern entrance and exit of a tunnel (Koningstunnel), Rijnstraat.

The tunnel was opened in 2000 and runs along Centraal Station (Central Railway Station).

It was built as part of a solution against traffic jams in and around the small but crowded city centre and around the railway station.

It has been renovated in 2019, two years after these pictures were made.

It won’t be the end of the story though, as the whole area will be changed completely over the next few years.

In the mean time the iconic flower stall Henkie’s Hoekie (Harry’s Corner) is still going strong with romantic travellers.

© Villa Next Door 2021

All pictures were taken in March 2017.

Bertus Pieters

Façades of The Hague from #72 onwards: https://villanextdoor2.wordpress.com/category/facades-of-the-hague/

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