The Netherlands Dance Theatre

(The Hague. Holland) 1984-67

A major problem in Europe, over the last twenty years or so. has been how to cope with the chaotic, derelict areas of cities on their peripheries and in their centres that the wanton urban development schemes of the post war era have turned into no-man's-land. At a time when many architects were preoccupied with 'memory' or the 'sense of place' in historic urban areas. Rem Koolhaas was among the first to address the degree zero' urbanity of the fractured city edges and disembowelled Inner cities. The Hague Dance Theatre was an ironically appropriate first commission.

A crueller case of urban blight, created by what Koolhaas has referred to as our contemporary 'culture of congestion", would be hard to imagine. Once the very heart of historic The Hague, the site for The Netherlands Dance Theatre is now squeezed between an elevated eight-lane highway, a major tram and bus interchange, the oppressive concrete slabs of the Ministries of Justice and Defence and a multitude of derelict two-storey buildings alternating with littered vacant lots (not to mention the claustrophobia induced by the zoning and planning scheme of the site chosen for the Dance Theatre). To make things still more difficult, the budget for the theatre was low.

Like the early-1970s followers of Robert Venturi's and Demse Scott Brown's Learning from Las Vegas. Koolhaas responded to the commission in a contextualist manner instead of approaching the problem with a priori architectural values, finding guidelines for design in the specifics of the site and its surroundings. In comparison to the so-called pop contextualists. the mood of his response was no longer so light-hearted: it had a hard edge because of the harsher urban realities. The result is the deliberately provocative and critical 'dirty real' quality of the building, the building's contextual reality in all its urban or industrial rougnness. To the south-east, it lunges almost pugnaciously over the traffic lights at the intersection of the road and the tram and bus lines. Its consciously nondescript facade is that of a governmental building rather than a cultural institution, more suited to bureaucrats than art lovers. The corrugated metal walls at the back are garage-like. Finally, and most disconcertingly, the main entrance to the theatre looks distinctly like a side door.


Plans of the Danco Theatre (Top to bottom) Section; floor plan at bale««) level; ground floor plan

(Opposite) Tho main facade, with Madelon Vrlosondorp's frosco. in ite slto contoxt

(Above) Tho rear facado

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