The Netherlands is a mecca for architecture students. Europe’s most densely populated country needs innovative urban solutions and has architects of international renown to deliver them. Add to that a long and rich architectural history to explore, from medieval churches to gabled renaissance houses, from art nouveau villas to modernist tower blocks.
The Hague alone boasts more than 400 Art Deco Buildings, landmark early modernist structures, and the highest proportion in any Dutch city of structures built by the Netherlands’ most famous architectural practice, OMA.
Grab your camera, take a bike and explore this fascinating city that is home not only to the Dutch government and Royal family, but also some 150 international organisations.
This year the Dutch celebrate the 100th anniversary of the launch of the De Stijl group, whose architects and painters like Gerrit Rietveld and Piet Mondrian played a central role in the Modernist movement. To mark the event, the geometric white façade of the City Hall, built in the 1980s by American architect Richard Meier, has been painted in red, blue, yellow and black in homage to Mondrian.
The Gemeente Museum holds the largest Mondrian collection in the world, but the museum is worth a visit for its architecture alone: Dutch architect H.P. Berlage was a significant figure bridging 19th century architectural styles and the modernist movement. The Museum, built in the early 1930s, is his masterpiece, and the last building he worked on (he died before it was completed).
Art Nouveau in Scheveningen
Step further back in time by wandering through the seaside neighbourhood of Scheveningen, home to a rich collection of art nouveau townhouses and villas. Part of the fun is to stumble serendipitously on Pinterest-perfect decorative details, from statement doorways to ornate windows and decorative tiles.
Het Paard van Troje
No Dutch architectural tour is complete without taking in the work of Holland’s most famous architect, Rem Koolhaas, and his practice, OMA. His buildings in The Hague include an extension to the Dutch parliament building, underground stations and the Paard van Troje, or ‘Trojan Horse’ concert hall, a venue for avant-garde pop music in which you’ll discover cutting edge contemporary interiors sitting behind the listed historic façade.
Central Train Station
Dutch architectural practice Benthem Crouwel Architects rebuilt The Hague’s central train station last year. A key feature of the airy design is a diamond-patterned glass roof, supported by eight slender columns, leaving attractive patterns of shadows and light.
Jan Duiker was an important figure in the Constructivist movement and his Nirwana building, completed in 1930, was the first high-rise block of flats in the Netherlands. Using steel reinforced concrete, Duiker was particularly interested in comfort, light, transparency and hygiene. Duiker died young, and never received the recognition he deserved.
International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court is another building emphasising light, shadow, and transparency with a lively chequerboard patterned façade. It was built by Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen in 2015 and is located next to the beautiful Meijendel dune nature reserve North of the city. The building’s irregular cubic structures call to mind both the dunes and land art.