The Peace Palace is a remarkable building. By Dutch standards it is a building of uncommon grandeur and a very recognizable sight in the City of The Hague. On 15 August 1905 the “Programme of the Competition for the Architectural Plan of the Peace Palace for the use of the Permanent Court of Arbitration with a Library” was sent out all over the world. The competition was open to all. On the closing day, 15 April 1906, no less than 216 plans had been submitted, covering a total of more than 3.000 drawings.
The construction of the garden
For the construction of the garden there was a competition in 1908: three landscapers were invited to create a design. The Englishman T. Mawson (1881-1933) won this competition. His design had to be simplified for financial reasons. Architectural elements, as a peace temple and garden tents, were therefore deleted from the design. The design includes a pond and a rose garden. Two houses in possession of the Royal family, namely country Rustenburg and palace Buitenrust, had to make way for the garden.
The Peace Palace opened its gates in 1913, after six years of construction. It is a large, square-shaped building with a plinth of grey Belgian natural stone and facades of Dutch red bricks in a combined neo-renaissance style. It has sloping slate roofs, two different towers and a west wing facade similar in quality to the front facade.
Embodiment of an idea
Due to its location, size and architectural quality, the Peace Palace is by Dutch standards a building of uncommon grandeur and that was precisely the intention. This project was not just about housing a judicial organisation; it was about the embodiment of an idea. What the Court lacked in authority as an international judicial institution in the early years, was more than compensated for by the formidable character, the artistic furnishings and exuberant symbolism of its housing. The Peace Palace fitted perfectly with the dream of world peace as cherished by the First Hague Peace Conference. After its completion, it was hailed as a true dream palace for world peace, "just as powerful and grand as the idea of world peace itself’", to quote a Dutch writer of the time.
Much discussed design competition
The Peace Palace might easily have looked very different from its present appearance. On 15 August 1905 the “Programme of the Competition for the Architectural Plan of the Peace Palace for the use of the Permanent Court of Arbitration with a Library” was sent out all over the world. The competition was open to all. On the closing day, 15 April 1906, no less than 216 plans had been submitted, covering a total of more than 3.000 drawings.
The jury selected six winners from the many designs with two traditional French architects as front-runners. Louis Cordonnier won the first prize. The selection and final proposal of the jury in favour of Cordonnier led to the fiercest and last great architecture debate in Dutch history before the breakthrough of modernism in the 20th century. Politicians, architects and members of the public contested each others’ taste, or lack thereof, for months on end. The innovators lost, although the subsequent changes to Cordonnier’s design offered some compensation.