The Building

The Building: Oude Veegpost

Utrecht is dotted with special buildings, which you bike past regularly but know very little about. Take the old cleaning depot on the corner of Groeneweg/Laan van Nieuw-Guinea, for example: it was designed by a highly unassuming architect.

text: Martine Bakker
photography: Pam van der Veen

Female architects are currently whipping up a storm on the emancipation agenda. Their aim: to redress the relative invisibility of ‘women in architecture’. A book bearing the same title was published in early summer, and a symposium on the subject was organised. The women at the symposium wiped the floor with ‘starchitects’, most of whom are ego-tripping men, praised by other men. But more importantly, they want to stress that architecture is not something you do in isolation: the star-architect status is just an illusion.

While pondering architectural egos, I was reminded of Jan Planjer. He worked as a municipal architect from 1919 to 1956 and is the epitome of an anti-star. He didn’t even sign his designs, probably because to his mind, the municipal architect department was a cooperative. We can’t be sure, because very little is known about him except that he was quickly thought of as a ‘first-class architect’ and spent ten years heading up the department.

Practically all of Planjer’s designs later became listed buildings. He even put heart and soul into designing the small cleaning depot on the corner of Groeneweg and Laan van Nieuw-Guinea. The symmetry in the building serves to emphasise the corner. Two semi-circles accentuate this symmetry, as do the two doors, which feature again higher up, to the left and right of the façade. Planjer experiments with straight and diagonal lines along the highest corners, and he uses the pavement to soften the transition from building to street.

The municipal cleaning depot was built in 1924. Although many of the expressive details have been erased over the years, the building is still a distinguishing feature of this crossroads. It remained in use until 1941, when it became a fire station, and has since been used for various purposes. It is now occupied by a dentist.

The school opposite, De Brug, is also a Planjer design, as is the former grammar school on Homeruslaan. For a long time, this latter design was attributed to one of Planjer’s draughtsmen, who had signed his name below the drawing.

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