Is Marcel Breuer’s American Embassy in the Netherlands up for the Challenge of Change?

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Docomomo Netherlands hosted a playful debate concerning the possible future of Marcel Breuer’s American Embassy in The Hague. Charlotte Van Emstede kindly agreed to write a little review about the problems that this important building is facing, regarding a possible change of use. 

In the area of historic preservation, the solitary Modern Movement building has always posed a problem for our field.  An “oddity”, debate surrounds a perceived mismatch between Modern Architecture and their historical surroundings of ornamented 18th-19th century architecture. This is also the case with the American Embassy in The Hague, theNetherlands. The embassy was designed by Marcel Breuer from 1957-1959. Since the Gulf War, and especially after 9/11, the embassy became a defensive, "attack proof" building, heavily guarded by high fences and permanent police protections. It is expected that in the near future, the American embassy will leave Breuer's building and move to a new, more easily protected location.

These recent developments have stirred up several public debates about the embassy’s future. Some have argued for demolition, a sentiment that seems to be dictated by the current inaccessible character of the embassy. Others have opted for preservation, ranging from restoring it to its original state, to reuse in an adapted form.  At the moment, current public opinion supports the preservation of Breuer’s building as an opportunity to celebrate this icon and research its possibilities for transformation. The Alderman for Culture of The Hague holds a corresponding view, and has announced a desire to investigate the possibility of conversion into a design hotel and museum for the 2018 event entitled: The Hague - Cultural Capital of Europe. It seems that even an iconic MoMo building like Breuer’s American Embassy at The Hague will have to face the 10th International Docomomo Conference mantra: “The Challenge of Change.”
Charlotte Van Emstede
Secretary Docomomo Netherlands