Els Slots (The Netherlands):
As the Netherlands are planning to publish an updated Tentative List later this year, I had a second look at the current list. To me it's a rather unimaginative collection of more polders, dunes, terps, fortifications and Roman remains. The average Dutchman will not be familiar with any of them. I would be surprised to see them return on the next list. The best cards hold the historic centre of Amsterdam (up for WHS nomination this year), the Van Nelle Factory and the former Aftercare Colony and 'Sunray' Sanatorium. The latter two are examples of the Dutch Modern Movement.
Sanatorium Zonnestraal ('Sunray') is located in Hilversum, about 35 kms southwest from Amsterdam. The sanatorium was founded by the Amsterdam Diamondworkers Union as an aftercare colony to train tubercular patients for their return to society. It was a revolutionary social experiment, based on occupational therapy. Its nomination for the Tentative List is because of its role in the Dutch branch of the international Modern Movement. Architects Johannes Duiker and Bernard Bijvoet designed the sanatorium in 1925-1927
I visited Zonnestraal on a Sunday morning. It is located on an estate just outside Hilversum, on the edge of the woods. Entrance is free. During my visit I only met a couple of people walking their dogs. There's a trail that leads you along the major monuments.
All these historic buildings have a very open feel, with lots of glass, windows and doors. The materials used were cheap and simple, they only had to last as long as necessary to eliminate tuberculosis (estimated at 30 years). Maintenance works were part of the patients' therapy. Fortunately everything is still standing over 80 years later, although there has been a fire last year at the Ter Meulen Pavillion (on the outside I did not see any serious damage). The complex nowadays is still in use by various private medical organizations.
There's one other sanatorium on the Tentative List, Paimio Sanatorium in Finland. It was completed in 1932 by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. I have never visited it, but from the description it looks quite similar to Zonnestraal. It might however be preferred for a spot on the World Heritage Liset because of the fame of its architect.
Date posted: April 2010
Have you been to Voormalige Nazorgkolonie en Sanatorium Zonnestraal? Share your experiences!