Feb/Mar 2013

text by Arthur Wortmann

Frank Havermans lures passers-by

‘In America, every community that’s worth a damn has an abandoned house that all the kids know about. And that’s where they go and party.’ Architect Robert Stone said this in Mark 21 in reference to a pavilion he had designed in Joshua Tree, in the California desert. It’s a statement that comes to mind when you see the meeting point designed by Frank Havermans and commissioned by the Centrum Beeldende Kunst Groningen arts centre. Beside a dike in a somewhat out-of-the-way little park in the Corpus den Hoorn district of Groningen stands a concrete structure with a steel cabin attached to it, looking out over a canal. The steel is rusty, Corten steel. The concrete has a peculiar appearance. It was poured on side, but the formwork was first line with tree bark. This is now stuck to the concrete and is slowly beginning to rot away and make a home for other organisms that adhere to the remains. Benches of rough oak have been installed at the foot of the concrete pedestal. An inclined ramp leads to the Spartan steel cabin, an ideal spot to sneak a smoke, hang out idly or meet people. Havermans: ‘The meeting point is a gift to the community, as the final element to a renovation of several years. The form is derived from the maritime elements likek boats and bridges from the immediate surroundings. The thing attracts attention, elicits a reaction and is difficult to ignore. As a result, conversations start naturally in this spot, among people strolling by, cyclists, dog walkers, rowers, and so forth.’ Which explains the name of the project: ‘Praathuis’, or ‘chat house’.