Pending completion of the new municipal offices in The Hague, which are scheduled to open in 2011, a presentation pavilion (Villa Escamp) has been erected next to the building site in order to give people a taste of what is to come. Designed by Korteknie Stuhlmacher, the glasshouse structure is divided into a number of different rooms that reflect the diverse activities of the new municipal centre. There is a Museum Room, a Garden Room, a Planning Room, a Library Room and, very important for a municipal centre, a Wedding Room.
The Wedding Chapel was designed by DUS architects, a young Amsterdam practice that has made a name for itself with an artisanal and hands-on approach to architecture. Their often small, conceptual projects, in particular their ‘public architecture’, frequently carry a hint of social criticism. Their ‘Gecekondu Summerhouse Hotel’ (an archetypical house made up of stacked Turkish shopping bags), for example, addressed the contentious issue of squatting and the related question of whether ‘the formal is normal’. Architecture critic Tracy Metz proclaimed it the ‘Best Architecture Project of 2009’. Other examples of DUS’s unconventional use of everyday objects include a porch of recycled front doors, an open-air pavilion made from red umbrellas, and a ‘cocoon’ of woven bicycle inner tubes.
In the Villa Escamp Wedding Chapel, DUS shows how something as prosaic as ventilation pipes can be transformed into a structure that is not only serviceable but which has an almost numinous quality. The trick lies in the fabrication: the chapel is in fact a scaled-up crocheted hat. DUS spent three long days crocheting two kilometres of flexible white ventilation pipes (delivered in 15 metre lengths) together by hand using a pattern worked out in collaboration with ‘crochet expert’ Sandy de Lange. The result is a six-metre-long, three-metre-high ‘dome’ that can accommodate 50 people (at a pinch). The pipes and the chinks in the crochet pattern filter the light. Couples are already permitted to ‘marry for a day’ there; the application to use the folly as a fully fledged wedding chapel is still being considered. It almost makes one hope that the municipal centre would suffer a slight delay.