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Geleen Town Hall  /

“The social relations of production have a social existence to the extent that they have a spatial existence; they project themselves into a space, becoming inscribed there, and in the process producing the space itself”
― Henri Lefebvre - The Production of Space

Stadhuis Geleen stands as a testament to the ambition and confidence brought to the region following the development of heavy industry in the Netherlands. In essence it is a monument to the moment when everything aligned to create the modern town.

Following the successes of the Emma pit in Heerlen and the Hendrik pit in Brunssum DSM began serious mineral exploration in the area around Geleen in 1912. After a year of digging and another year of deliberation the decision was made to undertake a monumental engineering feat in the village of Lutterade in 1915 – beginning construction the following year of what would become the biggest colliery in the Netherlands and what would become for a time the biggest twin shaft pit in the world.

It was clear from the outset of the project that the mine would require a significant workforce, one far bigger than was available from the labour in the area. So in 1921 plans were set into motion that would create a new town by drawing together the villages of Lutterade, Krawinkel and Oud-Geleen. The first step being to create the engine room of the new conurbation and build a new town hall.

The plans were bold, seeing the town recruit architect Jos Cuypers to create this centerpiece; an architect of some note having studied under his famous father (the architect of Amsterdam’s Central Station and the Rijksmuseum) and who had only five years previously delivered the Amsterdam Stock exchange. Rather than being a development in an existing city-centre, however, the site saw the town Hall constructed alone in a field sited between the three villages in 1922.

The planned growth of Geleen was far more than a matter of providing a labour market for the pit. In essence it saw the mindset of engineering required to tame the darkness of the underground start to pervade the aboveground world as industrialism came of age. The dark corners where the working classes could undermine and subvert the hierarchical order being contained and minimized to ensure growth and prosperity - even to the point where the leisure and living arrangements for beambten and workers was separated through careful spatial and social planning in different neighbourhoods and visually distinct types of housing.

It is perhaps fitting then, as the presence of DSM in the region slowly fades that the Mauritspark is now facing demolition. Being replaced with a multi-modal international freight terminal a reminder of the state of the modern world, where management and workers need not even live in the same country to carry out business as usual.

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