The Netherlands – an architect’s perspective

Walls talk. And often have the most fascinating stories to tell. Especially the walls of 20th century Rotterdam, the glass and concrete marvels, buildings with numbers, skywalks with stories and an asymmetrical bridge.

Decoding some of the ideas behind the newer, often spectacular, buildings of the Netherlands was award winning Australian architect Peter L Wilson, who has designed several award winning structures in Rotterdam.

Wilson, of the famous architecture firm BOLLES+WILSON, spoke to a packed room at the Architecture faculty of TU Delft last week. Called “A Handful of Productive Paradigms: Dutch Examples”, the talk explored some of his famous buildings,vfrom the Luxor Theatre in Rotterdam to the Spuimarkt in Den Haag.

“The Netherlands has been an excellent playground for us,” says Wilson, whose association with Dutch architecture began over 30 years ago, a time he fondly refers to as the “golden age of drawing”. The talk is peppered with images of his buildings and drawings of original plans. We learn about the use of amorphous space in the Luxor theatre, the re-creation of the historic New York Hotel and the secret behind the ‘Corner Glitch Detail’ among other things.

Wilson believes that creating a building is only one part of the process and a structure is truly complete once it is in use and has settled into the narrative of the city. “As an architect one can’t deliver the entire story or the experience,” he says.

Not just the facades and layouts, in Wilson’s buildings even the bricks have stories to tell. For instance, the brick wall of the Spuimarkt shopping complex in Den Haag is a work of art. The facade was handmade and put together by a team of experience bricklayers. The pattern harkens back to a 1930s brick pattern that was meant to resemble a gentleman’s tweed coat. “It is important to find the language within the material as well,” Wilson reminds the architecture students listening intently.  

“In the Netherlands there’s a certain sense of aesthetics that is an integral component of planning, unlike in other countries where functionality usually takes priority,” he says. However, Wilson’s journey through the landscape hasn’t been all smooth. In 1996, theirs was the only the only non-Dutch company to bid for the contract to design the New Luxor Theatre. “Several people were shocked when we won,” says Wilson, appreciative of the fact the authorities saw fit to choose them despite contradiction.

“We learnt early on in our career that when we’re pitching for a Dutch contract, if we painted our models orange we had a much better chance of actually getting it,” he says on a lighter vein, adding, “I like the Netherlands, people here always laugh at my jokes”.

Editor Redactie

Do you have a question or comment about this article?

Comments are closed.