City halls in a village

Visitors from outside The Hague sometimes mock us by saying ‘You live in a village’. Technically, that is true, because The Hague has never been granted a city charter. But even if The Hague is still a village, we have quite a number of interesting stadhuizen, or in English, “city halls”.

Old City Hall

On Groenmarkt you can find the building which is often called the ‘Old City Hall’. And yes, it is an old building, but if you look carefully, you will notice that it was built in two stages. The oldest part was constructed in 1565 in the so called ‘renaissance’ style: pink-red bricks and elaborate stepped gables.

Alongside Kerkplein is the extension that was built over a 100 years later, in the then-popular baroque style. If you pass by, look up to view the stork of The Hague accompanied by two women. They are the symbols of Prudence and Justice.

Only temporarily?

By the end of the 19th century the city hall on Groenmarkt had become much too small. The number of residents of The Hague had increased to 180.000 and over 2000 civil servants were needed to serve this population. To give the city bureaucracy more space within the old building, the city council moved its place of assembly from Groenmarkt to a ‘temporary’ venue in Javastraat.

Here the city council meetings were held until 1972, when a new assembly hall was built on Groenmarkt. This addition to the Old City Hall was demolished after a few decades. The spot is now the location of Snoeptrommel.

Monchyplein

The city council spent many years discussing the most suitable spot for a new city hall: at Spui or at the edge of the Archipel area. At long last in 1953 construction of a new city hall was finished at what was known as Alexanderveld, the former parade ground of the Alexander barracks. The street name was changed to Burgemeester Monchyplein.

This city hall was demolished in 1996 to make room for apartment blocks. Take a stroll around the beautiful pond and notice the statues which were once part of the old city hall.

Ice palace

Eventually The Hague built itself a city hall at Spui, by now already 20 years ago. As is to be expected, this project caused a lot of political discussion. The original scheme, to extend the old city hall on Monchyplein, went so far as to have plans drawn. But then one of our aldermen came up with the proposal to build a completely new city hall in the city centre. A competition was held and several architects came up with designs. The models were on display in the Gemeentemuseum and the residents of The Hague could express their opinion. I remember voting for the design by Rem Koolhaas. 

However, the city council decided in favour of the design by Richard Meier. You can commission this architect to designs buildings in all colours, as long as it is white. And so we Hagenaars promptly nicknamed the building our very own Ice Palace.

I tell you about city halls and other buildings during my city walks and bicycle tours.

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