And The Planners Blind To What They See.
The Museum de Fundatie is to be found in the ancient and beautiful Dutch city of Zwolle. The museum itself holds an outstanding collection of paintings that are well lit and the staff are friendly. As with all museums, it has more collection than space, and to the end of displaying more and being able to accept more temporary exhibitions that the museum was expanded.
What with a train pass that allows me free travel at weekends and a Museum Kaart that allows me free entry to most Dutch museums is my own way to enjoy the pleasures of our modern world. Not forgetting my folding bicycle. Because it was whilst changing trains at Zwolle that I saw the design for the new extension to the museum De Fundatie. At the time it was being renovated, and last Sunday I was drumming my fingers on my computer when I thought that Groningen was too far but recalled the museum at Zwolle. My cat was left enough food in case I was late home and some sandwiches were rustled up for a latish lunch.
The committee running Museum de Fundatie being Dutch, brought in a Dutch architect to design the extension. Now to be fair, most architects across the world think in straight lines and rectangular buildings, leading to the phenomenon that parts of Amsterdam are all but identical to parts of Lansing in Michigan. It’s called ‘individuality’. Everywhere is individual, but looks the same because of the urgency of cost constraints that deprives any building of any individualness. There are many modern cities where one can walk and one could be in Chicago or China – only it’s Amersfoort. The buildings are so unique, so original that they are now the orphans of the intellectual mind: they’re just part of the industry that makes buildings in the way chickens are raised to be slaughtered at the age of six weeks. For all the ‘originality’, they all look the same, don’t they!
They look all the same because nobody had the imagination to do anything else.
Now that costs were irrelevant seems to have kept the new extension to de Fundatie looking very different. What has to be said is that the extension holds no qualities of Dutchness at all, so whilst individual, the extension itself is now placeless.
Truly, if ever a piece of architecture didn’t fit in, it is this. Thankfully it is a silvery shade that meets the colour of a Dutch sky, did make it a little tricky to photograph. That does not make the aerial blob on top of this graceful building any less objectionable. Seeing the initial drawings this excrecance was filled out in brown, all I could think of was that the architect had done a dump on top of the building. Architects, whilst fully grown, seem not to understand the nature of toilet training. Nor do they seem to understand that doing such things in public is considered antisocial.
That the planners think this is acceptable only demonstrates their lack of perception. They wouldn’t let their children do it, would they – but architects are professionals, you see… which means the planners accept the difference between their own expectations and those brought from outside. It’s another example of what I term ‘the disconnect‘.
Another side to this was my meeting with a group of photographers who like snapping architecture. As ever, I spoke my mind as the photograph to the right shows what we saw above the pleasantly Dutch street that we were standing in.
Now I don’t happen to mind how people react, because if one speaks what one feels is the truth when done frequently enough, it’ll be pretty plain whether it is or not. You can imagine that at this, most of the group shuffled off with their portable memory equipment. One of the more communicative of the group stayed for a chat. She explained that she liked it, and I asked her why. She didn’t really know why, more that it was there and so was something to come and see. Our conversation continued and she said that she liked modern art because everybody could see in it what they liked.
Now you know that I can comment very quickly on a Facebook thread. This isn’t just a knee-jerk reaction, it’s a consideration of the flow of the conversation thus far, which when uncoupled from one’s own view, allows the situation to unfold naturally in one’s mind. A lightning fast response can be dangerously barbed on this account. What’s more, I am no different when speaking face to face and this is as good an example as any. For in the next breath I responded:
“So what you’re saying is that modern art is a little like management speak [a term that is as accessible in Dutch as it is in most languages] where the boss uses bland words that everyone can understand as they wish?”
Believe me, the expression on her face told me that I’d made my point. Whilst the conversation came to a close a little later, it was apparent that she was thinking about modern art in a very different way. No bad thing when most modern artists don’t know what they’re painting.
Just because some planner can accept an architect doing a dump on a beautiful building does not mean that everyone has to applaud them for being such imbeciles. I will add that the original building is far from being in the local style! Whilst it’s probably made of the local brick, its facade has been rendered and painted. Its classical frontage is in the English manner, the like of which won’t be seen for miles around. Yet for all its being out of place, the building is pleasant to behold.
The extension is anything but.