THE HAGUE (NL) - The brickwork patterns in the elevations of the Podium housing project in The Hague, a design by SeARCH, are not a direct consequence of a preference for working with brick. When SeARCH uses this material it is usually dictated by the client's wishes or by an urban design plan that specifies the use of brick – because it is a safe choice, a material builders are familiar with and on which guarantees can be given. Because it is affordable and does not require a lot of maintenance, and because, since the rise of neo-traditionalism in the Netherlands, brick is back in fashion.
Architect Bjarne Mastenbroek saw the use of brickwork patterns primarily as a way of making compelling architecture on a low budget. The Podium is part of a large-scale urban renewal operation in a post-war district of The Hague. The main aims of the demolition/new-build plans are the same as in other Dutch cities: to tackle socio-economic problems (by attracting more middle-class residents) and densification. On the site of the demolished walk-up flats, twice as many dwellings with parking spaces had to be realized, mainly at the expense of the green space. By way of 'compensation', SeARCH designed the architecture as a neutral medium for a huge artwork by Henri Jacobs. On the 270-metre-long north elevation, he designed a sequence of brickwork patterns using one type of brick in only four different colours. Minimal means, maximum effect. In addition, the design agency De Makers Van designed a 60 × 18-metre mesh fence with a flower pattern along the external walkways of the two highest buildings. Mastenbroek hopes that these artworks and the craftsmanly quality they evince will not only bind residents to their surroundings, but also contribute to a reappraisal of the district as a whole. (Kirsten Hannema)