The greatest of the Dutch architects

Everything about the architect, Huig Maaskant, was big. He was well over two metres tall (the title of the documentary refers, somewhat ironically, to how he described himself), he designed the Groothandelsgebouw, the largest building in the country at the time, his architectural firm was one of the largest in the Netherlands and he drove big American automobiles.
The Euromast is his most well-known design, built as a watchtower for the Floriade of 1960 in Rotterdam. But other icons such as the Hilton hotel in Rotterdam, the provincial government building in Den Bosch, the Pier in Scheveningen, the Tomadohuis in Dordrecht and the Johnson Wax head office in Mijdrecht were born on Maaskant’s drawing board. In the documentary, contemporary architects such as Herman Hertzberger, Carel Weeber, Jan Hoogstad, Willem Jan Neutelings and urban planner, Riek Bakker, select their favourite Maaskant building and explain what their personal affiliation is with those designs. With archive footage, old commercials, fashion shows held in the buildings themselves and 8mm films from America, the documentary not only gives an impression of an architect, but also of an era in which entrenched values were disappearing. The Johnson Wax building in Mijdrecht bewildered the Dutch at the time. ‘Passing cars caused accidents’ one former employee recalls. When motorists caught their first glimpse of the ‘space ship’ they forgot to steer and ended up in the ditch.

Tutto ciò che riguarda l’architetto, Huig Maaskant, era grande. Era alto più di due metri (il titolo del documentario si riferisce, un po’ ironicamente, a come lui stesso si descriveva), ha progettato il Groothandelsgebouw, a suo tempo (1953) il più grande edificio del Paese, il suo studio di architettura è stato uno dei più grandi nei Paesi Bassi e ha guidato grandi automobili americane. Euromast è la sua opera più famosa, costruito come una torre panoramica per l’edizione di Floriade, festival floreale, del 1960 a Rotterdam. Ma altre icone come l’Hilton hotel a Rotterdam, il palazzo del governo a Den Bosch, il Pier a Scheveningen, il Tomadohuis a Dordrecht e la sede di Johnson Wax a Mijdrecht sono nati sul quaderno da disegno di Maaskant. Nel documentario, architetti contemporanei come Herman Hertzberger, Carel Weeber, Jan Hoogstad, Willem Jan Neutelings e l’urban planner, Riek Bakker, selezionano i loro edifici preferiti firmati Maaskant e spiegano la loro affiliazione con questi design. Con spezzoni d’archivio, vecchi spot, sfilate tenute nei palazzi stessi e film 8mm dall’America, il documentario non solo racconta l’architetto, ma anche un’era in cui i principi stavano scomparendo. L’edificio di Johnson Wax a Mijdrecht confusero l’olandese ai tempi. ‘Le macchine di passaggio crearono incidenti’ ricorda un impiegato. Quando gli automobilisti videro per la prima volta la ‘navicella spaziale’ si dimenticarono di curvare e finirono nel fosso.

Film profile

Director: Jord den Hollander
Year: 2003
Duration: 60’ mins
Country: The Netherlands
Scheduled for Festival on Festival 2016

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