Spaces in the Red Elephant

Red ElephantAt the end of the Utrechtse Baan you can see one of The Hague’s most iconic buildings. It catches the eye of every driver who enters The Hague from the A12. I was lucky to get the opportunity to spend a month in this building. Of course I’m talking about the Red Elephant, once the proud office building of an oil company. It now houses Spaces, supplier of inspiring office environments for professionals and upcoming companies.

The start

Those of you who have visited Hilversum, must have seen its town hall, designed by the famous Dutch architect Dudok. But on that same spot you might have found a different building instead. The building we know as The Red Elephant was originally designed by architects J.H. de Roos en W.F. Overeijnder as a proposed town hall for Hilversum. One of their other works is the so called Sparta Castle of 1916 in Rotterdam, the first football stadium built in the Netherlands.
As it happened, the architectural competition for the Hilversum town hall, for which The Red Elephant was designed, did not take place. So the architects offered their design to the American Petroleum Company (Esso since 1947), which commissioned the building. It was finished in 1924.

The result

Red Elephant 3The American Petroleum Company provided the architects with a large budget. The proud building (then to be known as “Petrolea”) was to be taller than the offices of American Petroleum’s competitor’s (Shell), hence the tower. And no expense was spared on the lavish interior. Designed in Art Deco style, the interior displays a lot of natural stone, cherry wood panelling, stained glass windows and an imposing main hall with a beautiful, high vaulted stained glass ceiling.
Red Elephant 2As soon as you enter the building, your eye catches the 50 meter long mural by Christiaan de Moor. People who grew up in The Hague and finished their secondary education at the Gymnasium Haganum are quite familiar with his work. He created the mural of Pythagoras, Phidias and Plato in that school building.
It’s worthwhile to look up outside, as well as inside. On the exterior of the building are a number of statues by sculptor Joop van Lunteren. If you want to see more of his work, he also made the statues for the former post office building on the Kortenaerkade, which now houses the International Institute for Social Studies.

The name

American Petroleum/Esso eventually sold the building, and in 1990 a law and solicitor’s firm established offices there. Because the old names “Petrolea” and “Esso Building” no longer applied, a competition amongst the firm’s personnel provided the new name: “The Red Elephant”.


The Hague - SpacesThe building has been renovated with great care. All the beautiful details are well restored and false ceilings have been removed to show the building’s design in its original splendour. It’s a wonderful place to work. And as such it’s now available to many, namely the customers of Spaces. These clients are professional people and growing companies in the The Hague area. They can rent offices and Spaces offers memberships for self-employed people, meeting rooms and satellite offices.

Red Elephant 1
I spent hours in this beautiful building and it was not difficult to dedicate myself to tasks like writing this blogpost. I also invited people to meet in the Red Elephant. Everybody accepted my invitation with enthusiasm and they were even more delighted when they saw the building and its possibilities.
The Red Elephant, an inspirational building!

I will show you other fascinating buildings during my city walks and bicycle tours.

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1 thought on “Spaces in the Red Elephant”

  1. Frederique Hauffmann

    Thanks, Jacqueline, for this interesting article. The Red Elephant is an amazing welcome to the city of The Hague.

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Jacqueline Alders 3

Blogger Jacqueline Alders
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