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University Hall Amsterdam

When designing the University Hall, architect and urban planner Cornelis van Eesteren drew inspiration from the Frauenkirche in Dresden, which he had visited in April 1922. The contrast between horizontal and vertical elements typical of this baroque church can also be detected in his design.

The ground and first floors are separated by a huge, dramatically overhanging balcony that is anchored in the black pillars of the hexagonal sphere. However, the balcony is far more than simply a balcony: only the uppermost edge acts as a parapet for the first floor landing. The remainder of the volume, shown as a mezzanine in the cross-section, has no clear function. The slender vertical lines of the hexagon on the first floor and the undersides of the upward-slanting trusses contrast sharply with this horizontal volume. The light also receives a baroque treatment, with high contrasts of light and dark and transitions of light to semi-shadow, both vertically and horizontally.

It is unusual that Theo van Doesburg, whose work was anything but baroque, was predisposed to design an interior for this centre of the university. Van Eesteren’s drawing of the University Hall inspires him to introduce the diagonal, which represents movement in the philosophy of De Stijl.

Van Doesburg’s colour design for the university’s hall is the only project produced of the collaboration to reveal the painterly and spatial-aesthetic influence upon the architecture; it demonstrates that, unlike Oud, Van Eesteren was prepared to concede to this influence and adapt the construction.

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