De Rotterdamse villa Maaslust en Berlage
On Parklaan in Rotterdam, situated in the Muizenpolder to the west of the city centre, the wealthiest Rotterdam citizens built their villas in park like gardens in the 19th century. For instance, around 1874 Rudolph Mees, descending from the wealthy banking family, had a house built there, now no. 9 Parklaan.
It was a spacious, classicistic villa of an almost completely symmetrical layout. All external walls had middle ressaults and the roof was lifted in the middle. The floor plans (basement, elevated ground floor, upper floor, attic) were symmetrical in layout. The interiors were done in subdued colours with the habitual stucco work and marble.
The architects were J.M. van Binsbergen and J.C. Bellinghout. while J.D. and L.P Zocher designed the landscape garden. On account of the then still unobstructed view of the river it was named 'Maaslust'. The countless alterations to the villa - since the Second World War used as office premises - affected the original character. Repeated refurbishments reduced the quality of the fitting out and finishing on the inside and outside.
Building-historical research (end 2007) has led to a reconstruction of the layout of 1874, but has also shed light on a very important refurbishment around 1900. In her book on the Muizenpolder Van Limburg-Stirum already briefly associated H.P. Berlage with an early refurbishment.
The blend of elements from the time of building and 'more modern' elements from the early 20th century fostered the desire to further define this involvement. Drawings in the Rotterdam municipal archives and the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) show that around 1900 drastic plans for refurbishment were made: In 1899 the heir of 'Maaslust', Wijnand Mees, wanted to modernize immediately.
The greater part of the drawings in question are deposited in the Berlage archives in the NAi. These already point to Berlage as the architect, and although a literal signature is lacking, the fact that the architectural plans fit in so well with his oeuvre supports the attribution.
The drawings almost exclusively concern floor plans and show various stages in the planning. Notes clarify certain aspects, sometimes giving an idea of the existing building, sometimes of the intended interventions. In addition, a handwritten 'programme' was found with interesting details. The architect clearly wanted to break the symmetrical and monumental layout of the villa.
One-third of the house, the entire right-hand side, was to be demolished. A divergent building component made of stacked blocks was to be erected in its place. A sketch on the basis of the floor plans gives an impression of the intended building mass.
Evidently these designs were too drastic for Wijnand Mees. The series of drawings concludes with the floor plans - sometimes violated - still to be traced back in 'Maaslust'. Berlage was permitted to replace the entrance and thus to give the adjoining space another function and layout.
Here and there in the villa elements and lighter colours underneath more recent latex layers are to be found originating from around 1900. However, the building mass remained symmetrical and classicism was maintained. Unfortunately, we can only guess at the contents of their conversations: Berlage had wanted to be much more drastic than Wijnand Mees allowed him.
Copyright (c) 2008 John Veerman
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