Suppose that tomorrow we see the following headline in the newspaper: “Project developer introduces new shopping concept in The Hague city centre!”. The accompanying article then reads: “The new complex will be 160 metres long and 7 metres wide. To make room for this, 34 existing shop premises will be demolished”.
Residents of The Hague who were having their coffee at that time would seriously choke. Newspaper readers would pick up their pens to write angry letters to the editor and social media users would post, share and like protest messages. At least one pressure group would be formed, because we would not tolerate such an intervention in the historic city centre of The Hague today.
These thoughts often cross my mind when I walk through our beautiful Passage in The Hague. For in the late 19th century, 34 buildings were indeed demolished in order to build our gem in the city centre. On 18 July 1884, the young Miss Louise Eliza Uytenhoven, aged 4, laid the first stone and in 1885, Hagenaars could enjoy a new shopping concept.
Am I secretly glad that around 1880 the citizens of The Hague were more amenable than they are now? Perhaps I am. Do I think that all demolition for construction of new buildings should go ahead without any critical thought? I do not think so.
Because when I see pictures of the Huygenshuis on the Plein, I think it’s an eternal shame that it was demolished and replaced by the Department of Justice in neo-Renaissance style.
New School of The Hague
And I would like to show visitors from Dordrecht their city’s lodge that once stood on the corner of Tournooiveld and Lange Vijverberg.
But wait, that’s the spot where I now regularly stand to sing the praises of the “schoone eenheid (beautiful unity)* of the New School of The Hague whilst looking at the creation of architect A.P. Smits.
An architectural style that has made a comeback, by the way. Advertisements for new construction projects often include “in the much-loved thirties style” among the enticements to purchase. Property developers and architects also look back even further in time, as we can see in the district Vroondaal, where Statenkwartier is copied.
We live again in a time of historicising new constructions, which results in architectural styles you might name Neo New School of The Hague and Neo Neo Renaissance. However, these styles are only reflected on the facades. Inside, residential floor plans are likely to feature large L-shaped rooms with open kitchens, rather than the charming rooms en suite with sliding doors found in many older residences in The Hague.
Combining old and new
And well, why not combine old and new? I would be disappointed if buildings, also in the inner city, were only copies of older styles. And I don’t like the idea that in a hundred years’ time people would judge my lifetime with: “They really didn’t know how to come up with anything new back then”.
On the Plaats, the medieval Gevangenpoort stands in good company with a large number of 19th and 20th-century façades. Cigarette-shaped lampposts have now been added. I think their contemporary design is a nice addition, although the light they radiate in the dark is rather cold. So there’s always something to discuss.
is the title of a beautiful book about the architecture of the New School of The Hague. Written by Marcel Teunissen and others. Still available second-hand or on loan from the Haagse Bibliotheek.
A second book by the same author is still available: : 100 jaar Nieuwe Haagse School – de toekomst van het verleden.