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De Meerpaal

Dronten, Netherlands
1 of 4

Asked for a simple multipurpose community building with provisions for amateur theatre and music, sports and a small cafe for new inhabitants of the pioneer-village Dronten that was being built in the new polder Flevoland, Van Klingeren did much more than that, and in a sense also much less. He gave more space, more functionalities and more possibilities, but less 'stuff' (walls, floors) and in a way less 'architecture'. Van Klingeren was inspired by the village squares or agora of the Mediterranean that functioned as meeting places, open-air theatres and playground, while showing a generic, in fact absent, architecture. In this sense his agora can be seen as a sort of architectural urbanism.

De Meerpaal is in fact nothing more than a covered village square, protected from the northern climate by glass walls. It is a large glass-and-steel box measuring 50x70 meters with a couple of smaller brick boxes (some art and exhibition rooms, a tilted box with restaurant/cafe, and a small staff office) added along the edges. In the middle of the covered space an oval open-air theatre - soon dubbed 'The Egg' - is the main architectural gesture. There are hardly any walls inside, neither are there many spaces for any specific function. All functions mix, sometimes causing hindrance (which was a good thing according to Van Klingeren, hindrance leads to conversation and mutual understanding). De Meerpaal was used for many different functions; the weekly market, agricultural exhibitions, sports, parties, large scale meetings etcetera. The oval theatre with its central stage (the setting of audience and use could be changed easily, anything was possible except a traditional proscenium set-up), became a place where alternative theatre groups loved to perform.

De Meerpaal was also the main stage for large size, live national television productions and games, until large-scale studios were built in Hilversum. Besides this television attention for Dronten, De Meerpaal also was equipped with a (rotating) film screen on which, besides normal movies, live television could be screened by us of the so-called Eidophor technique. Thus, the whole village could watch the news or football matches together from the indoor terrace of the cafe. De Meerpaal has, with some merit, been compared to Cedric Prices (unbuild) Fun Factory of the same time. But while Fun Factory can be called a 'machine' for multifunctionality, full of specific intentionality, De Meerpaal is more like a generic square where the intentionality of use and meeting is not outspoken, but nevertheless - maybe more so than in Fun Factory - more open to chance and unpredictable uses.

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bostjan, November 10th, 2017
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