Een onbekend ontwerp van Abraham van der Hart
Recently a sheet with a design for a government building in the former Dutch colony Demerary has been discovered. Up to the present, designs for buildings in the West-lndian colonies were not known among the works of Abraham van der Hart, town architect of Amsterdam (1747-1820).
Plantations were cultivated in the Dutch colonies Essequebo, Demerary and Berbice in present-day Guyana since the first half of the 17th century. More than once these colonies were at stake in international politics. In the years 1781-1782 and from 1796 to 1802 the Dutch lost sovereignty over the colonies in Guyana to England and from 1803 on these regions definitively fell into British hands.
In a last, short period, from 1802 to 1803, Dutch dominion was established anew and Abraham van der Hart was asked to design a new government building. The matter of the new governmental residence was not given high priority. For some years Van der Hart even remained deprived of any message. The sheet with coloured drawings he sent in has been signed and dated A. van der Hart 1802.
The design shows a stately but simple facade of five bays with a strong emphasis on the middle and a horizontal partition into three zones. The side facades are divided by the same horizontal partition and the same simple windows. Not restricted by the parcel's width or depth Van der Hart could apply simple measures. Unit at the whole design continuously is four feet, which unit can be found in the height of the building as well.
The design as a whole perfectly fits into the works of Van der Hart. The simplicity and stateliness which occur at many of his other designs here are most characteristic. The sort of building, seat of authority, is unique among the works of Van der Hart. Unfortunately the minutes of the meetings of the Council of the American possessions, which deliberated on the design, do not contain remarks on the suitability of the design for this type of building.
The simplicity of the facade of the government building certainly will have been consciously striven after by Van der Hart as best expression of the dignity of authority. About 1780 he already executed some variations on the theme. The design for the governmental residence reminds of the mansion Houdringe at De Bilt (1779). This design probably was inspired by examples from the well-known manual Recueil élémentaire d'architecture by Jean-François de Neufforge.
Designing the governmental residence Van der Hart did not take climatological factors (heat, humidity) into consideration. Therefore the design for the governmental residence in the West-lndian colony perhaps would have been even better conceivable in the Netherlands.
A variant on the original design was drawn in 1804 by Van der Hart's assistant Barthold Willem Hendrik Ziesenis (1762-1820). The residence never has been built. In September 1803 Demerary/Essequebo definitively fell into British hands and the motive to raise the building disappeared completely.