World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize Goes to Bierman Henket, Wessel de Jonge

Manhattan may be quietly dismantling its modernist icons, but hope springs eternal…in a Dutch sanatorium. The technically and programatically exemplary restoration of the Zonnestraal Sanatorium in North Holland led Bierman Henket Architecten and Wessel de Jonge Architecten to best nominees from 14 countries to win the 2010 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize. Awarded biennially, the prize acknowledges the growing threats facing significant modern buildings and recognizes the architects and designers who help ensure their long-term survival through new design solutions. Principals from the firms, which are both based in the Netherlands, will be presented with the $10,000 award on November 18 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In addition to the cash, they’ll each score a mini monument to modernism: a limited-edition Mies van der Rohe-designed Barcelona chair, created by Knoll in honor of the award.

“Zonnestraal is a Modern-Movement gem of concrete and glass, revelatory not only in its own time, but also each time that architects and historians have rediscovered it after years of neglect,” said MoMA’s ever-vigilant modernism monitor Barry Bergdoll, who chaired a jury of architectural scholars that included Kenneth Frampton and Jean-Louis Cohen. “Now that Hubert-Jan Henket‘s and Wessel de Jonge‘s stabilization work on the restoration is complete, it reconfirms Zonnestraal’s standing as one of the most experimental designs in the fervently creative decades of modernism between the two world wars.”

Designed by Johnannes Duiker and Bernard Bijvoet in the late 1920s, Zonnestraal was built as part of a larger aftercare colony for tubercular patients, whose recovery was surely bolstered by the presence of a pig farm, apiary, tea garden, and open-air theater. The fragility of the structure has a rather poetic explanation: the sanatorium was established based on the conviction that tuberculosis would be exterminated withn 30 to 50 years and that the building would thus no longer be needed. As for Henket and de Jonge (who will lecture at MoMA immediately after picking up their award), you might recognize their names from DOCOMOMO, an organization they were inspired to create after working together on the conservation of Zonnestraal. Today it boasts 53 chapters and more than 2,300 members worldwide.

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