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HERMAN HERTZBERGER
 
 
 
 
  Name   Herman Hertzberger
       
  Born   July 6, 1932
       
  Died    
       
  Nationality   the Netherlands
       
  School    
       
  Official website    
     
       
       
     
 
BIOGRAPHY        
   

The enduring Dutch legacy of a socially committed architecture
tempered by strong functionalist beliefs found in Herman
Hertzberger one of its most eloquent practitioners. Admired as
much for his pedagogy as for his built work and theoretical
writings, Hertzberger has maintained active participation in all
three disciplines. He has taken the term codetermination as a sort
of creed, one that speaks of the duality of structure and in-fill
as well as of the need for inhabitants to participate in some
meaningful way in the construction of their individual habitats.
As for the latter, Hertzberger has written, “The architect's task
is above all to apply more than cut-to-fit, readymade solutions
and as much as possible to free in the users themselves whatever
they think they need, by evoking images in them which can lead
to their own personally valid solutions.”

Hertzberger began his career as a follower of Aldo van Eyck
during the latter’s early days with the Team X (10) group. The
two architects, along with Jaap Bakema, shared editorship of
the prominent Dutch architectural journal Forum from 1959 to
1963, four fertile years in which a new approach to architecture,
one promulgated most publicly by the Team X group, was de-
tailed and comprehensively theorized. Characterized by a nonhi-
erarchical design layout and fiercely polemical writings (many
by the editors themselves), the Forum of these years emerged as
one of the most important and singular voices in opposition
to the instrumentalized functionalism of prewar architecture as
characterized by Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,
and Le Corbusier,

Hertzberger's experience at Forum played a pivotal role in
the creation of the Dutch School of structuralism, of which he
was to become the principal proponent. Following Team X's
attempt to triumph over the functionalist divisions of CIAM
(Congrés Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne), structural-
ism proposed an integrative approach to a building's functions,
emphasizing a multiplicity of elements in a loose, complex pat-
tern, with the whole subordinated to a single, homogeneous
structural principle. The legibility that results would exist within
the discrete units as well as throughout the entirety of the build-
ing. Patterns of relations between the user and the built environ-
ment, allowing for an interweaving of functions, also characterize
the structuralist paradigm. Despite concerns that structuralism’s
infinite flexibility served to blur the programmatic distinctions
between buildings of different functions, architects such as
Hertzberger were able to subvert the deterministic ideals of func-
tionalism by positing notions of an archetypal human and his
or her community while still acknowledging the inexorable press
of history on the effects of human interaction with built form.

Hertzberger’s Centraal Beheer Insurance offices (1972) in
Appeldoorn offer a textbook example for the democratic organi-
zation of building components. A regularized grid of floors, sup-
porting columns, and service ducts provides a framework for
the irregular clustering of offices and conference rooms. The
modularity of the interior allows for infinite reconfigurations
through the deployment of furniture and cabinets; the interior
atrium recalls Frank Lloyd Wright’s Larkin Building (1904) in
its interwoven fabric of tectonic elements, yet it opens up the

latter's more regulated symmetry through Hertzberger’s deliber-
ate attempt to infuse the space with the needs of the inhabitants
to individually modify their own work spaces. Workers are thus
provided with personal areas whose participation in a collective
environment avoids any sense of psychological alienation; inter-
penetrating top-lit voids from both natural and electric sources
enhance the drama of the interior and tie together the cellular
workstations.

The Central Beheer offices also represent the ways in which
Hertzberger’s practice maintained the humanistic investigations
of van Eyck with more structurally rational forms handed down
from the Dutch architects Hendrik Berlage and Johannes Dui-
ker. This insistence on corporeality and human scale while main-
taining structural integrity is at the heart of this enterprise;
Hertzberger has written, “Structure is the minimal order neces-
sary to make possible the maximum liberty and even stimulate
this effect.”

The Diagoon Houses (1971) in Delft, a set of eight prototype
houses originally designed in a larger formation for the city of
Vaassen, aptly embody the aspect of self-determination that
Hertzberger considered so crucial to the development of mean-
ingful living conditions. Referred to as “half-works,” the details
of each dwelling unit are left deliberately ambiguous: window
openings that can receive glazing or in-fill, depending on the
needs of the inhabitant; carports on the lowest level to be either
used as garages or converted into additional work space; and
roof terraces that can become greenhouses, children’s play areas,
or additional penthouse space.


Hertzberger’s Chassé Theatre (1995) in Breda showcases the
more Expressionistic side of Hertzberger's neohumanism. Re-
versing the orthogonal ordering of his earlier work, the undulat-
ing roofline of the theater announces itself over the rooftops of
surrounding houses, a gesture echoing the parabolic arch from
which is suspended the roof of his project for the Bibliothéque
de France (1989), and the curved ramps and balustrades of the
foyer carve out interior space much like in the central hall of
his Ministry of Social Welfare and Employment (1979-90) in
The Hague. This latter work, spanning almost a decade of effort,
embodies both the modular and the Expressionistic, where curvi-
linear staircases and elevator shafts meet the strict orthogonals
of the Centraal Beheer’s offices.

The exterior pays homage both to Le Corbusier's Plan Voisin
with its cluster of cruciform towers and to Gropius’s Fagus Werk
with its glazed corner stair towers, but the interpenetration of
masses and volumes, the oblique positioning at the site, and the
hinged capitals that seem to allow each block to pivot against
its adjoining member recall such forms as are often affiliated
with Hans Scharoun, especially his Philharmonic Concert Hall
(1963) in Berlin. Such varied elements of influence, integrated
with the utmost integrity and conjoined with the ability to bal-
ance the necessary realms of structure and freedom, are the hall-
marks of Hertzberger’s style.

Noau CHasIN


 
 
 
 
 
 
TIMELINE        
    Born in Amsterdam, 6 July 1932. Attended the Technische
Hogeschule, Delft, Netherlands; graduated 1958. Private prac-

tice, Amsterdam from 1958; editor, Forum, Amsterdam 1959—
63; town planning consultant, Deventer, Netherlands 1969. In-
structor, Academy of Architecture, Amsterdam 1965-70; profes-
sor, University of Delft from 1970; visiting professor, Massachu-
setts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 1966-67, 1970, 1977,
1980; visiting professor, Columbia University, New York 1968;
visiting professor, University of Toronto 1969-71, 1974; visit-
ing professor, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana 1978;
visiting professor, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachu-
setts 1979; visiting professor, University of Pennsylvania 1981;
visiting professor, University of Geneva 1982-86; professor,
University of Geneva from 1986. Honorary member, Académie
Royale de Belgique 1975; chairman, Berlage Institute, Amster-
dam from 1990; honorary fellow, Royal Institute of British Ar-
chitects 1991.


 
 
 
 
 
 
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