zaterdag 3 januari 2015

Curvaceous Coriovallum

Having descended the steps from the suburban station, we turned right towards the road passing underneath the embankment. Heading for a well-known interior decoration store based around mass-produced Swedish design, we followed the pavement leading us to the underpass, chatting about kitchens and cupboards. As we entered the gloom below the viaduct, we discovered a little gem.

Architects are not truly dead until all of their buildings have been razed to the ground. Even by the demolition-friendly standards of the space-starved Netherlands, architect Sybold van Ravesteyn died exceedingly quickly. He passed away in  1983, and most of the edifices he designed were torn down even before that. The rest went in the following decades. Only a few traces of his highly individualistic style remain. His approach was difficult to classify; perhaps 'decorated functionalism' would fit the bill. Or 'deco modernism'.

The abutments of the simple girder bridge taking the railway across the underpass on Heerlen's In de Cramer road are vintage Van Ravesteyn. The first thing that struck us were the three circular apertures, seen in many of his buildings. On closer inspection, it turned out that the abutment walls possessed quite a few decorative elements: raised surrounds on the round window edges; stone quoin patterns embossed on the narrow faces of the walls; and of course Van Ravesteyn's characteristic swinging curves. The resulting shape is totally unnecessary from a structural point of view - a straight line would have done equally well - but the bends add a pleasant looseness to an otherwise dull construction element.

Abutment. Heerlen, 23 Dec. 2014 (Photo: E.Milius)

Abutment, Heerlen, July 2009. (Google Maps)

Our companion Mr. Milius was kind enough to take a snap of the abutment, and we have added another one from Google Maps. With the image of Sybold van Ravesteyn's hidden heirloom still with us, we were sufficiently armed with curves and ornaments to face Ikea's straight lines squarely.