The Peace Palace in the Hague was built in 1913, houses the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or World Court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), the renowned Peace Palace Library, as well as the Hague Academy of International Law. Due to its humanitarian work and service provided to various nations, I have been intrigued by the design choices mad, for such kind of an ‘international palace’ and it has been on my ‘to visit list’ for a while. The exterior view is bold, not severely imposing, with a mix of various stylistic details, the exterior tower did remind me of Disney world, the style is unlike most Dutch architecture. The building was part of the gift from the Carnegies, the American philanthropists. French architect Louis M. Cordonnier won an open international competition for its design and execution, which is in his words is Neo-renaissance style, adjustments were later made to suit the budget. Photography inside the building is not allowed, and it was a cloudy outside, hence the photography quality is not great.
The elaborate metal lampposts that stand at the entrance reminded me of the East-European church metal works, elaborate and grand. Once you step inside, you are in an interior design history handbook. There are so many different styles and features, sitting next to each other that it becomes overwhelming. The low arches with Byzantium flower capitals for columns, Roman mosaic floors, Victorian stain glass, Rococo plaster designs on ceilings, Persian tiles, arts and crafts patterns, Neo-classicism and more, all in the attached corridors to the working spaces. The spaces themselves, like the session rooms were less vivid, with a lot of wood and stone. There were busts of Gandhi, William Orange and other important people in niches, lit by light filtering in through stain glass windows featuring Goddess Gaia and other mythical beings. This is a building is a people pleaser, they have tried to incorporate so many styles, ornaments and images from different cultures, that it loses its elegance and grandeur. The features by themselves are well crafted, just not well placed, with little thought if the space needs so much of ornamentation, that changes every other bay. This is an example of architecture going wrong in trying to please too many masters, and losing harmony in the process.
The Garden around the Palace are said to be charming when in full bloom in spring and summer, and I did see they had some great features. The design feature that I liked most is the side entrance to the Palace, again a mix of materials, but they do work together.
This Bronze sculpture influenced by the Asian symbol of justice was placed inside the Peace Palace as well as the gardens. The metal work on the main gates and the smaller gates is worth noticing. The more contemporary features added to the entrance space in front of the gates, are the stone columns with ‘Let there be Peace in the world’ in various languages, is a nice touch.
There are few architectural building projects which come with a brief so complex as to represent the whole humanity, and such a brief can be quite daunting. The interiors of the Peace Palace in my opinion is an example of a bad solution to the challenging design problem. This is a place that serves humanity and justice everyday, and has all my respect for the work they do, but if you are visiting the Peace Palace as a designer, this place disappoints.