Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the De Stijl movement, Richard Meier’s only project in the Netherlands is getting an extremely Dutch treatment.
Nieuwe Beelding is not an alternative spelling of “New Building.” It’s the Dutch term for Neoplasticism, more commonly known as De Stijl, a modernist art movement made famous by Piet Mondrian that centered around the use of primary colors separated by black lines and white space. That said, The Hague’s city hall does look like a new building after getting Mondrian’d earlier this week.
Neoplasticism traces its roots back to Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg’s journal—started in 1917—called De Stijl (“the style”) to express the movement’s philosophy. To celebrate 100 years since De Stijl’s genesis, the government center of its birth nation is giving itself an appropriate makeover. Other buildings will get the Mondrian treatment throughout the year but city hall served as a good place to start.
Designed by Richard Meier, the geometric complex and its stark white walls unintentionally function as a perfect canvas for a giant De Stijl painting, minus a few (impure!) curves. In a time where many postmodernists were eager to break free from the rigid forms of modernism, Meier instead supplied new energy to it—committing to geometric forms and white walls to create a vast portfolio of elegant museums, government buildings, and private residences. Two years after winning the Pritzker Prize in 1984, Meier began working on city hall.
The thoughtfully urban complex opened in 1995, nestling various uses—including council chambers, offices, public library, retail, and exhibition spaces—on two sides of an internal atrium. It’s been embraced as the center of the city since its debut.
At his Pritzker acceptance speech, Meier said that “white is the most wonderful color, because within it you can see all the colors of the rainbow.” City Hall will have to settle for a stricter range of colors during this celebration.