Dudok for Dummies

Dudok for Dummies

In opdracht / samen met Hans Venhuizen ontworpen en uitgewerkt plein in Hilversum. 2005-2008

Aslof doen alsof niet ook gewoon doen is
lees het bij Hans Venhuizen
A CHILDREN’S PLAYGROUND was constructed on the Van ’t Hoffplein in Hilversum East’s Liebergen neighbourhood, using the floor plans of the houses designed by Dudok that stand around the square. These were largely demolished and rebuilt in the spirit of Dudok. The floor plans are outlined in the asphalt on the scale 1:1, which reveals how small the houses originally were. In the design, the rooms are clearly identifiable as living rooms, kitchens or bathrooms. The playground equipment takes full advantage of the floor plans: the benches stand in the living rooms, the rubbish bins in the kitchen and the swings in the garden, while the slide begins in a stairwell.

The original floor plans provide inspiration for games and at the same time retain something of the houses designed by Dudok in their original setting. This means that ‘De Speelhoff’ – ‘The Play Court’ – is effectively a ‘Dudok for beginners’.

The playground can only be visited during the day and is open to parents or carers accompanying children up to eight years old. The grounds are fenced off and are accessible from the Van ’t Hoffplein via a gate. This gate, which Hans Venhuizen designed in association with the typographer Wigger Bierma and the designer Olivier Scheffer, blends into the surroundings in a distinctive manner. It was inspired by one of the most beautiful gates designed by Dudok, namely those at the Noorder Begraafplaats cemetery in Hilversum, from which the rhythm of the railings is derived directly

The gateway incorporates a text. This text cannot be read from the side where people enter; the letters primarily serve as obstacles that make it more difficult to climb over the railings. The text can be read when leaving the playground: ‘Alsof doen alsof niet ook gewoon doen is’ – ‘As if pretending isn’t the same as simply doing.’ 

After the children have had their fun at the playground, with the pretend interiors inside the pretend houses, which take on a perfect domestic intimacy for the duration of the game, the text on the gate is extraordinarily reassuring: ‘As if pretending isn’t the same as simply doing.’ After all, for children it is fine to pretend, thus training their ability to hold their own in the adult world. Providing they are able to read and understand the text, children can leave the playground invigorated and fortified thanks to the elevation of ‘pretending’ to actually ‘doing’

For adults, however, this reassurance is more likely to have a disturbing effect. They, after all, are not leaving behind the ‘pretend’ environment but are actually entering it. The environment they are returning to is namely that of the fake Dudok: modern architecture pur sang that is doused in a Dudok sauce. A sauce in good taste, to be sure, and certainly competently assembled. However, it is a sauce that primarily speaks of nostalgia, for a past that is less threatening and less uncertain than the future.

When the attentive Speelhoff visitor leaves the playground with the sentence on the gateway in his or her mind, the only possible conclusion is that ‘pretending’ has now become extraordinarily ordinary.

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