Herman Hertzberger is a Dutch architect born in 1932 in Amsterdam. As a disciple of Aldo van Eyck, he was one of the main influences behind the Dutch structuralism movement. His theoretical contribution to the movement came from the Participation movement initiated in 1961 by John Habraken and his book Supports: an Alternative to Mass Housing. The theoretical ideas were translated into practical, architectural, spatial terms, such as participation, small scale, crossing disciplines, and the integrated approach to a neighbourhood. He doesn’t want to provide a complete solution, but to provide a spatial framework to be filled in by the users, it’s the Structure and Infill principle. However only his first projects will have a worldwide impact. The best known being the Diagoon Houses in Delft (1971), often considered to be the most functional structuralist housing project.
Centraal Beheer Office Building
The other project considered to be one of the most inspiring examples of the structuralism movement is the Centraal Beheer office building in Apeldoorn (1968-1972). The building was built for 1000 employees of the Centraal Beheer insurance company. It was designed not as an office building but as a workspace. For this purpose, Hertzberger assembled sixty cubes in order to form a single articulated unit, each floor being connected by over-passes. The central space is as wide vertically as it is horizontally. The breaches between the cubes are closed with glass, in order to unite the structure. This also makes it possible to diffuse natural light in the circulation spaces and evoke an outdoor atmosphere in the building.
From the outside the whole appears as an open-air structure. From the inside the cube module is organized according to specific needs. The corners are organized as a meeting point or as a place to relax and have a coffee. The work spaces are organized to create a social atmosphere in the cubes. Finally, the zenithal openings, the use of glass squares, the transparency in the space of the escalators allow an optimal natural illumination and spread out in the building. The strength of the architecture of the Centraal Beheer office building is that each cube is detached from the others, breaking the monumentality of the structure. But they are visually and physically connected to the other workspaces, forming a single unit, a unified workspace.