Zonnestraal Sanatorium, Hilversum, The Netherlands, 1928-1931. Original design by Johannes Duiker and Bernard Bijvoet; Later restored by Bierman Henket Architecten and Wessel De Jonge Architecten
Outrage: Zonnestraal at risk


Outrage: Zonnestraal at risk
Dutch minister removes world famous sanatorium and aftercare colony created by Duiker, Bijvoet and Wiebenga from the UNESCO Tentative List

The recent decision of the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science to remove Zonnestraal from the provisional list of nominations for UNESCO World Heritage has filled many with disbelief and incomprehension. Zonnestraal has been on this Tentative List since 1995. Logical, because the modern architecture of Duiker, Bijvoet and Wiebenga and the construction of the complex form a unique layered materialization of the underlying social ideals, the aesthetic principles of the Modern Movement and the socio-medical program. The sanatorium and aftercare complex of Zonnestraal is undoubtedly one of the most important icons of the international Modern Movement.

Has the situation decreased so much since 1995? On the contrary. Zonnestraal, step by step, has been restored with integrity and care, in conjunction with the owner(s), the municipality and the government, always with the UNESCO nomination in mind. In 2010 this was awarded the prestigious World Monuments Fund Award.
In 2013, the owner of Zonnestraal and the government signed an agreement in which they declared their joint commitment to be nominated as a world heritage site. Recently, when the complex passed into new hands, again a covenant was concluded between the owner and the municipality in which, against the background of the world heritage nomination, the cultural-historical values would be painstakingly taken care of. Then what went wrong?

During the process of drafting the interim nomination file for UNESCO, in collaboration between the municipality of Hilversum, the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency, and a long list of national and international experts, the minister decided to ask an additional opinion of an ad hoc advisory committee. This committee (with one expert on built cultural heritage) came to the unexpected point of view that Zonnestraal has no outstanding universal value, nor will it have so in the future.

If there were any doubts about certain aspects (which many international experts are contesting), that could have been a point for attention in the further elaboration of the nomination file. But Zonnestraal was not even given the benefit of the doubt.
The completely negative conclusion of this committee ignores the exceptional layered cultural-historical value and is not only a cynical, but completely misguided assumption that Zonnestraal would never meet the selection standards handled by UNESCO. The minister made a hasty and poorly-informed decision.

We call on everyone who cares for this unique icon of the Modern Movement to support our pursuit for a fair chance, a well-considered nomination file and to create a sound and credible basis for UNESCO to eventually judge the outstanding universal value of Zonnestraal.

Please send your opinion to the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science:

Website contact form: https://www.government.nl/contact/contact-form
Address:                      PO Box 16375, 2500 BJ Den Haag, Netherlands
Fax:                             +31 70 412 34 50.

Text by Rob Docter, Hubert-Jan Henket, Wessel de Jonge

Get to know more about the Zonnestraal Sanatorium here