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Herman Hertzberger

06-07-1932

Herman Hertzberger (1932), who graduated in architecture from Delft Technical College in 1958, became one of the Netherlands’ most renowned architects. He is a key exponent of the structuralist movement in Dutch architecture.

From 1959 to 1964, he was on the editorial board of the journal Forum, with Aldo van Eyck, Jaap Bakema and others. Forum opposed the pale functionalism of the post-war reconstruction years which had led to an architecture that was bleak and lacking in imagination. More even than functional architecture and urban planning, Forum was in favour of the kind of architecture marked out by (human) relationships, an architecture of encounter and harmonisation.

His design for Centraal Beheer insurance company in Apeldoorn (1967-1972) marked his international breakthrough. This building is based on a linking of 9 m2 squares, subdivided into 4 corner planes of 3 by 3 metres. This formed a permanent structure within which flexible arrangements were possible. The last of his designs to be based on this structuralist vision was for the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment in The Hague (1979-1990), which comprised sixteen octagonal towers accessed by way of a high, glass void.

From 1990 on, Hertzberger’s structuralism was replaced by a more liberal approach, as can be seen in the Chassé Theater in Breda (1992-1995) and the CODA Cultural Centre in Apeldoorn (1997-2004). Nonetheless, his designs continue to give the greatest priority to creating meeting spaces for users.

Hertzberger is regarded as the leading designer of schools in the Netherlands. In his vision, social spaces should always be the focal point; this was based on the idea that spatial interventions should bring and keep people together. Hertzberger’s breakthrough came in the 1980s with his Apollo schools in Amsterdam; schools whose villa-like appearance and halls, typical of Hertzberger’s work, had a friendly and multi-cultural character and were to become his trademark. And that is where the challenge lies for all his designs, which is to ensure that people encounter people, a foremost task that is central to all his buildings. Recent schools built by his Architectuurstudio HH firm are the Faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam, the extension and renovation of the NHL Hogeschool University of Applied Sciences in Leeuwarden, the Uithof Faculty of Science of Utrecht University and a joint primary and secondary school in Rome.

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