In a Dutch Suburb, a Housing Project as Art
Capped at four sentences long, the Wikipedia stub about Hatert doesn’t tell us much. We discovered that Hatert is a relatively new suburban area to the south if Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and its main attractions are a shopping center and a weekly Wednesday market. Little did we know that the sleepy Dutch suburb is undergoing a major process of urban renewal.
The newly-completed crown of the neighborhood is an iconic housing project by Dutch firm 24H-architecture. Drawing from historical and contemporary architectural predecessors alike, from Oscar Niemeyer to Jeanne Gang, Housing Hatert is a towering complex marked by its highly expressive, free-formed balconies.
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Housing Hatert was built to be a beacon of the neighborhood, a soaring, sculptural tower recognizable from all directions. Its undulating balconies instantly bring to mind some of the smooth staggered forms designed by Oscar Niemeyer and the organic façade of Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Milà. Yet its constrained, horizontal tiers of regular wood paneling conjure a more contemporary analogy, drawing comparisons to Studio Gang Architects’ celebrated Aqua Tower in Chicago.
Chicago’s skyline can be considered a timeline of skyscraper history, tracking the evolution of boxed, vertical forms since the late 19th century. Thus, the Aqua Tower seems to subvert from within, artfully working within the constraints of a historically rooted cityscape. Carving out a sheath of subtly undulating balconies, Studio Gang architects counter the regularity of the skyscraper legacy from which the Aqua Tower stems. The tower manages to maintain visual harmony with its surroundings while providing wholly unique views and experiences of the city and of the form of the skyscraper itself.
Housing Hatert is, in a way, quite the opposite. In maintaining regularity throughout the core of the tower and wildly splitting off at the corners, the tower in Hatert openly defies the rigid, rational geometries that are so often the conceptual keystones of the skyscraper. Without much of a surrounding urban fabric to suggest any aesthetic restrictions, Housing Hatert boldly charges in its own direction with a highly expressive, sculptural form that loudly proclaims its standing as the crown of an awakening suburb.
For more, check out the Architizer project page for Housing Hatert by 24H-architecture.