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The Resident

“To enrich the built environment with narrative quality.” With this qualification, urban planner and supervising architect Rob Krier appeals to the art for De Resident, a new housing and business quarter in The Hague.
“The built environment” in De Resident displays a new vision on society. It is not based on modernist functionalist ideologies anymore, but addresses a dissociated society in a narrative manner. The relations between politics, architecture and art come to be viewed in a completely different light. Classicist elements in architecture in this new concept have been rid of their old and rigid political context and are made representative of a cosy social-democracy in a fairytale manner.
Art is being employed as confirmation of this line of thought. “To enrich the built environment with narrative quality,” in this context means that the artworks should make people feel happy, just like the architecture does.
This message obviously has no ideological background. There is no message to be conveyed. There is no question anymore of representation of political or economic power, but the representation itself colours the new society. De Resident is a fairy-tale and people like it.
One can ask whether an (my) artwork should be part of a development in which it is customary – or maybe even necessary – to avoid critical discourse. Other artworks, of which it is already known they will be placed in De Resident, conform without further ado to an architecture which sees no advantage in discussing its political foundations.
I want to make an artwork that conforms to Krier’s points of departure as well, but that does at the same time have a critical relationship to its surroundings. Not in order to rebel against it, and succumb to the new society as a hopeless sign of regression, but to shed light on the meaning of this new environment. Postmodernism is not nihilistic but invites a new search for standards and values and meaning, which play a role in the new world.
I want to value the postmodern meaning of this place, or, to use Krier’s words, enrich – and clarify – the built environment with narrative quality.
My design for De Resident tells a story about the place of national history in contemporary society. The proposal is a classic equestrian statue of prince Willem-Alexander, the future King Willem iv, to be placed on the oval Musenplein by architect Adolfo Natalini.
The real estate developer has already acquired a number of artworks, which by their classical references – Muses, Colossus, torso – complement the atmosphere of the environment. This equestrian statue corroborates the trend but is, without a doubt, also historically classicist, which will lend it its necessary sense of urgency.
Society changes, and so does the monarchy. A rider on horse-back in The Hague’s De Resident quarter will function as a sublimation of all existing equestrian statues. Where the horseman who subdues the horse was once a representation of the rider’s power over the people, in this new environment, discharged of this task, he becomes a fairy-tale prince. A prince on horse-back is the fancy of a well functioning modern democracy.
In the Hague’s tradition, the equestrian statue plays a special role. The statues of Willem van Oranje (1843), Willem ii (1924) and Willem iii (1921) on horseback paint an interesting picture of the history of this town. A new prince on horseback excellently fits into this tradition. Willem iv will represent postmodern society in a national historic perspective. This artwork, which like its surroundings is titled The Resident, in more than one respect shows where it stands.

Source: Hans van Houwelingen, clarification design De Resident, 1998