Home | About Us | Contact
Embassies | General Consulates | Honorary Consulates | Representations Offices
List | Profiles
2004 | 2005
2004 | 2005


February - 2005


Putting on de Stijl

It's an embassy, but not as we know it, as Michael Bird takes a peep
at the new Dutch administrative office in Bucharest

Breaking out of the traditional classical style of an embassy, the Netherlands sought out a more modern and design-led environment to represent its diplomatic community in Romania.
“We had used the same embassy for forty years, but since 1989 it has been a different ball game and, as we were in the process of doubling our personnel, we were looking for more space,” says Nienke Trooster, counsellor and deputy head of mission at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. “The previous administration department was in a very small space, in a basement, where the air wasn’t healthy, there were small windows with bars and the heat wasn’t regulated.”
Occupied by the Dutch embassy since August 2004, the 900 sqm property emphasises the importance of working in a pleasant and harmonious environment with plenty of natural light that allows departments such as the consular, economic and agriculture to carry out their duties in an open and spacious atmosphere.
A private house before 1950 the Avaitorilor-based detached block on Aleea Alexandru was then nationalised and became a heavily-guarded secure unit of the Ceausescu regime. So additions were needed and Delftbased design firm Cepezed built a glass front around the consular department, seeming to adopt, in a visual form, one of the maxims of the European Union – transparency matters. Although at first glance the interiors seem to offer a plain and clinical environment, on closer examination the softness and calm of the office begins to emerge, with an atmosphere more reminiscent of the headquarters of an architectural compound.
This includes grey cotton carpets, black corduroy-backed office chairs inspired by the De Stijl art movement, manufactured by Dutch-based Gispen, and low felt armchairs in grey and red, following the designs of seating guru Gerrit Reitveld. Every piece of furniture, from the lamps to the tables, is designed to be light and flexible, while retaining a Dutch signature. “Even though it’s functional, it can still be comfortable,” addsTrooster.
The choice of paintings was coordinated by the Netherlands Department of Housing in the Ministry of ForeignAffairs, which has a special team of art specialists who are dedicated to making the interiors of Government representative offices around the world more aesthetically pleasing. This department supplies the embassy with a plan of the embassy and a list of paintings, where and how to hang them.
But this is not an inventory of Dutch cliches found in anAmsterdam gift shop - tulips, windmills, canals and clogs are nearly all absent - instead this is an interior which celebrates the twentieth century design heritage of the Netherlands with a selection of prints that showcase some of the latest talents that Holland has to offer. The art specialists even gave the new embassy a list of themes - naivete, colour and figurative art – to allow consistency and a reaction to sitespecificity. There are three different pictures of Queen Beatrix – an official photograph, a linear drawing from a bronze cast painted by Jereon Henneman and an illustration in which she appears throughout the red, white and blue colour scheme of the flag by the Dutch painter Marte Röling.
To bring contentment to the traditionalists, a copy of the classic portrait ‘Die Gambenspielerin’ by Van Dijk hangs above the ambassador’s desk and, when the Embassy opened, the staff draped a massive print of Van Gogh’s yellow chair from the roof, contrasting the nation’s artistic heritage with its more Modernist aspirations. One of the most potent and unpretentious symbols of Dutch art, the chair also managed to signify the fact that Holland then claimed the seat to the six-month long presidency of the European Union.
But there are also more surrealistic elements shown in Rob Sholte’s ‘Fairy Tale’, a montage of a swan, in which hands take the place of its beak and wings. While abstract art is represented by Cees Andriesse’s coloured paintings that resemble details from an ink-blot test, naïve art brings a more buoyant and colourful aspect to the interiors, in Theo Van de Goer’s modern illustrations of fairy tales and Henrietta Boerendans’ paintings of rural scenery.
Together the interiors neither resort to shock tactics nor rest upon the aesthetics of a previous, lost period of time, but gently lodge in the visitor’s mind a sense of modern and mannered talent at work.


Michael Bird