The residents of the House will close their doors behind them for several years next Friday. The First Chamber does that a week later. Because the moment has come for nearly 1,700 parliamentarians, staff and civil servants; after years of discussion, the historic complex is closing for a thorough renovation. Scheduled time: 5.5 years; cost (now) 562 million euros.
The blue chamber seats go along with 4000 moving crates to the temporary shelter, B67, a refurbished former ministry at The Hague Central Station. The archive of about two kilometres long and 1,600 works of art are also put in the moving cars moving back and forth until the end of summer. The First Chamber and the Council of State leave for another building in the city. The Ministry of General Affairs will go to a lawned workspace later this year.
Representatives Vera Bergkamp talks about a mega operation because of its enormous size and historical significance.
Construction workers have been working more often around the 800-year-old complex. The MPs had never had to move themselves. “It‘s historically what’s happening now. We write history.” It is also a logistically complex job under a lot of time constraints, because at the beginning of September B67 everything has to work for a decent Chamber debate.
As chairman of the Construction Guidance Committee (BBC), VVD MP Ockje Tellegen has been preparing for years and speaks of a “nostalgic farewell”. “For many, it‘s a departure with a lot of emotion. Many MPs and staff don’t know if they‘re ever coming back here. New elections will be coming. People are retiring too.”
Came and went
The renovation must be completed by the end of 2026 and 57-year-old PVV leader Geert Wilders will return, he says. “I keep working until I was 67th.” For more than thirty years he walks around the Binnenhof; first as an employee, then as a VVD MP and then as leader of his own party. The building has much of its history and Wilders calls it “mortal sin” to leave. “How many cabinets haven’t fallen here? How many ministers didn‘t quit here? All those political parties that came and went. There’s nothing in the new building.”
Here are some images of the new home of the First and House of Representatives:
The 75 senators and some 65 First Chamber Staff are also packing up their pouch. Senate President Jan Anthonie Bruijn calls the departure necessary. “But I say goodbye with a sense of melancholy.” As a child, his father was driving the Binnenhof after a family trip by car. “Look, here‘s the government, he said. That made a big impression on me.” His colleague Bergkamp: “I’m going to miss the Binnenhof very much, it breathes history. It‘s a bit different from an office building.”
The residents of the historic buildings, such as 19th century Justice and Binnenhof 1a buildings overlooking the Knight’s Hall, sound misty sounds while packing the moving crates.
“It‘s not nothing. We leave a special historic place full of emotions and history. I will miss familiarity,” says SGP leader Kees van der Staaij, for 23 years in the House of Representatives and Wilders one of Parliament’s nestors. He speaks of a necessary evil, but doesn‘t want to be too dramatic. “The Binnenhof is not being demolished.”
Wilders is in Hotel – “a bit the back of the House” – without wood paneling or ceiling paintings and with lofty rooms where the mice shoot back and forth. He sees the emotions mostly among MPs in historic rooms. “We’re moving from an emergency home to a new emergency home.”
Many Binnenhof residents are aware of the need for their departure by now. “When it rains, the nipples are in the hallway,” says Van der Staaij. It‘s way too hot. “It’s like a sauna when the sun shines,” says CDA MP Inge van Dijk. “And even the glasses are almost falling off on the toilet.”
Van Dijk has Binnenhof in its tasks in the coming years and wants to keep an eye on the progress of the project. She wants to know financial setbacks on time, not only when there is a threat of delay. “We keep the hand on the cut. It‘s about community money”.
She does not rule out that it will take longer and van der Staaij shares that. “It usually gets more expensive and longer. But I hope it’s done in time.” Wilders‘ estimation: “I estimate, 7 8, or 9 years old.”
What the plans of OMA’s na Van Loon architects are, is not quite clear yet. There will be a new public entrance.
After the summer, there will be more clarity, says the executor‘s spokesperson, the Rijksreal Estate Company (RVB). Chairman Tellegen of the Building Guidance Committee: “The Renovationis 70 percent technology that you don’t see anything about, such as energy, WiFi, climate and 30 percent visible building engineering interventions. On return, people may say, “is this it now?”.
Look at that picture of the new public entrance at the Hofplaats here. The RVB stresses that this is just a sketch and not a final design:
And what will happen at the Binnenhof from July 9? Not much in sight yet, it turns out when inquiring the Rijksreal estate company. The real estate company stresses that work will be done right away. After Prinsjesdag there will be construction fences and after December 1, the complex will be closed to the public.
First, research is done, asbestos remediated, small demolition work and dismantled the building. Duration: one year. The arrival of the hordes of construction workers and construction cranes will be waiting for a while.