Stories around the Nirwana-flat

Merging modern design and social history (1925-1930)

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After the First World War, there was a housing shortage in The Hague, not only for the working and middle classes but also for the upper ones. Between 1925 and 1929, Dutch architects Jan Duiker and Jan Gerko Wiebenga designed and realized in The Hague the first residential hotel made of a reinforced concrete structure: the revolutionary Nirwana-flat. The residential hotel has a height of 25 meters with seven floors and a penthouse on the roof. High-rise was efficient, hygienic, comfortable, cheap, and the solution to the housing shortage. Functionality and efficiency played an important role in the design of the Nirwana-flat. The purpose of the flat was to allow a large number of people to live in a relatively small area which includes a cluster of luxury apartments with access to collective facilities, a lift, a restaurant, and a launderette.
This architectural history thesis aims to explore the design of the Nirwana-flat in the socio-historical context during the 1920s and 1930s in the Netherlands. The research has been based on archival sources such as media publications, magazine articles, architecture magazines from the time of construction and after the construction of the Nirwana-flat, and the plans at the Duiker Archive. The thesis firstly explores the typology of the residential hotel in The Hague, then the Nirwana-flat (1925-1929), to finally address the media coverage of the Nirwana-flat once built.
Finally, it concludes that in the first decades of the 20th century, the concept of residential hotels and their application has been the subject of debate and differing opinions. This included population density, urban planning, and balancing private space and communal living. As a result, the debate continued to shape discussions around housing policies and urban planning in The Hague and beyond.
All in all, the (hi)stories around the Nirwana-flat prove its important socio-historical significance for the development of housing architecture.