SECTARIAN ARCHITECTURE

In my hometown Haarlem two kinds of belief have become neighbours.

From the busy road one observes both the Reinalda Home for the elderly and the Selimiye Mosque of the Turkish community in Haarlem.

The mosque is an architectural jewel.

 

 

The architect – Fedde Reeskamp from Architectenkamer in Haarlem – put in a performance. He flawlessly connected the Modern or perhaps Postmodern style to a building for Islamic religious services and cultural activities. Mosque and minaret, the two of them widely spaced, are connected by a steel curve, suspended in the air, however difficult to photograph.

Its dome, produced by Octatube Delft – the maker of steel tube architectural constructions – is reminiscent of the beautiful new bandstand that Wiek Röhling designed for the Haarlemmer Hout, a park in front of the former palace of Napoleon’s brother who ruled the Netherlands for a while.

 

Wiek Röhling, Bandstand

In designing the minaret, architect Reeskamp also managed to make use of another highlight from the history of The Modern Movement. Connoisseurs will easily discover therein the revolutionary tower of Tatlin, designed in the Soviet era as a tribute to the Komintern, the Third Communist International. It is of a delicate and beautiful shape.

 

Minaret in Haarlem in 2011

 

Tatlin’s Tower Komintern 1919/20

Whether the architect’s clients – the board members of The Islamic Foundation, The Netherlands – understood these architectural references when they agreed with the design, is the question. The architect undoubtedly wanted to accentuate the revolutionary quality of his mosque design. In these days of violent confrontation between proto-fascist Turkey and pseudo-communist Russia it certainly is a salient given.

From my web search it did not become immediately clear that the ‘Islamic Foundation of the Netherlands’ in fact serves mostly, if not only the Turkish populace. However, you might deduce this when you perceive the delicate sign atop the minaret, which testifies to this whiff of politico-religious sectarianism play.

This becomes even more intriguing when one turns around and moves towards the mosque’s neighbouring building, the Reinalda Home. This is obviously modelled on Rudolf Steiner’s architectural prescriptions, layed down is his Anthroposophist teachings. It has been designed by two anthroposophists, the architects Alberts and Van Huut, organized in International Architects BV Studio for organic architecture planning and design.

 

 

Alberts and Van Huut, Reinaldahuis Haarlem

This agency produced many more horrors of so-called anthroposophist architecture. One thinks of one of their monsters, the by now already empty building: Head Quarters ING (a Dutch bank) in Amstelveen. You may observe the petty bourgeois taste for irrelevant little curves and corners, also seen in many mediaeval cartoons.

 

Alberts en Van Huut, HQ ING Amstelveen

My theme, however, here is not so much architectural ugliness and beauty, as the sectarian quality of buildings. This can best be illustrated with a few words of madness from Rudolf himself, as well as from his disciple Van Huut. Given that the old people’s home is a medical institution, I quote something anthroposophist about hospital buildings, but begin with something about schools.

“A good school is already good for 40% (sic) of the educational work done.” (Van Huut) “Hospital rooms for patients with diseases such as cancer, must be decorated with warm pink tones; rooms for patients with infections and fever must be dominated by blue colors.” (Steiner) Sunlight streaming through pentagram-shaped panels “humanize in heat.” Water flowing through lemniscate-shaped gutters are “healthy, because they give the water what it wants.”

Thus two kinds of sectarian extremes became neigbours. The magnificent mosque, from which not the architect expect special effects, but the believers for whom it was designed ; and the Reinalda Home from which especially architects expect miracles .

 

 

You might walk, as it were, from one building to the other.

Sierksma, Haarlem, December 2015

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Author: rjsiersk

contact: rjsiersk@xs4all.nl Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats. He would not ind being a cat.

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