Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sick building syndrome

I consider myself lucky that I have lived so far only in one building by an acknowledged architect: a student-flat by Herman Hertzberger (1932, Amsterdam) in the Weesperstraat, Amsterdam (designed&constructed: 1959-1966; see photo above), during the late nineties. In the nineteen-sixties Hertzberger was one of the founders of the Dutch structuralist movement. He claimed that a design should only provide a framework, so that users have the space to fill this framework. However, an architect should not be reviewed by his lofty theories but by using his built designs. And this particular building does not live up to Hertzberger's own theory. The rooms are very small, the corridors are gloomy so that one is lead automatically to the brightly lid joint space of the living room/kitchen, which signifies that this lay-out favors a shared life and as a consequence users do not have the freedom to fill the framework with meaning, a worldview. And if his theory would have been successfully applied to this design then users would have had the freedom in such a way that a multiplicity of uses and thus meanings would have been possible. But perhaps he has come to regret this design, because it is not mentioned on his website.

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