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Black Madonna

The Black Madonna in The Hague is one of Carel Weeber’s key projects. With what was to become the Netherlands’ most illustrious council flat, he wanted to put a bomb under the prevailing tweeness, and present the epitome of council housing: sober and functional, without frills. The building was demolished in 2007.

The Black Madonna in the Wijnhaven district comprised 336 council flats and a number of shops. It consisted of an eight-storey block and a U-shaped block of six storeys which together formed a contained unit. The outside walls were clad with black-tiled, prefab concrete sheets. The southern corner was rounded off to accommodate a tramline. The building was built on top of an underground car park, above which, between the two blocks, was an enclosed communal garden.

The Black Madonna was often called the ugliest building in the Netherlands. Architect Carel Weeber did not disagree; for him, the design was symbolic of what council housing, in essence, was, namely an emergency measure governed by rules. At the same time, the building showed that finicky decorations are, it would seem, a necessary condition for good living. For its many opponents, the Black Madonna represented everything that was wrong with modern architecture and Weeber was a cynic who could not care less about the fate of the residents.

Weeber brushed off the criticism simply by saying that he did not take an under-developed society into consideration. Despite all the criticism, the residents were attached to the building. In 2000, the city of The Hague decided to demolish the building to make way for new premises for the Ministries of Justice and the Interior and Kingdom Relations. This resulted in countless lawsuits and occupations by squatters but the curtain finally dropped in 2004, with the last residents leaving the building in 2007.

The model was made after the demolition of the building in 2007.


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