The Dutch government is facing a conundrum: what should it do with Soestdijk Palace, an empty 17th century landmark in Utrecht?
Housing minister Stef Blok has announced it is seeking ‘serious and creative proposals’ for the redevelopment of the 1678 building, which has been languishing unused since the deaths of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard. They moved there as newly-weds in 1937.
While the royal residence – designed by architect Maurits Post – has been open to public visits since 2006, Blok stated in a letter to parliament that he will be looking for ideas for an ‘economically sustainable’ transformation.
Any proposal must, however, keep the palace open to visitors and retain its neoclassical façade.
The State Real Estate Company – the Dutch government’s property and development arm – will begin inviting proposals shortly, with the selection process due to begin in September.
A judging panel, including Blok and several independent experts, will then pick three or four of the most suitable ideas, with each team receiving €100,000 to further develop their proposal.
Soestdijk Palace has been empty since 2004 because Queen Juliana’s successors, first Queen Beatrix and then the incumbent King Willem-Alexander, both chose to live in Huis ten Bosch, a royal palace in The Hague.
Times are tough when you have so many palaces, you don’t know what to do with them.