Who approaches the city of Tilburg from the north runs up against the Hasselt roundabout. This roundabout constitutes one of the most important gateways to the city. Thus it is not surprising that the municipality dedicated this location which a lot of people drive by every day – and which provides for the first impression of Tilburg to many people – as an art location. For the municipality of Tilburg, which wants to display guts through its public art plan and wants to show unusual things, the Hasselt roundabout is the obvious location for a large-scale and unusual work of art like the Rotating House of John Körmeling.
A detached terraced house with a front and back garden is placed on the Hasselt roundabout. The house, which looks as if it is real, rotates on the roundabout in the direction of the traffic and completes one full round in about 20 hours. The house is a full-scale model (5 meters wide, 8.5 meters deep and 10 meters high) and has an open and friendly look and feel. The house is not fit for human habitation; it consists of a steel construction covered with red brick strips and tiles. The windows are made of laminated glass with white window frames. The front and back garden are provided with artificial turf. At night the house is illuminated from the inside. The house is closed but, with a key, you can enter the house through the front door to carry out possible maintenance. Grass grows on the roundabout itself. The distance between the garden and the road amounts to a meter. The house has 4 track wheels which are placed on rails. The mechanism at the house will drive the four wheels with 24 Volt deriving from a solar panel. The solar panel is not placed on the roundabout itself. The current will be taken from the net. A mechanism ensures that the house automatically stops as soon as something bumps into it.
In an elucidation of his design John Körmeling states that he wants to provide drivers waiting at the roundabout with a feeling of alienation from reality by having the house rotate. After all, normally the driver will be moving whilst the construction stands still. The alienating effect will, however, not immediately be perceivable. After all, the house only rotates very slow. If you return at a later time you will experience the alienation owing to the fact that the house has moved. Moreover, the house comments the construction of the Hasselt roundabout itself which broke through the historical ribbon structure of Tilburg in the sixties and cut the Hasselt Street from the Chapel of Hasselt, a much frequented chapel for veneration of the virgin Mary and an important cultural-historical inheritance.
The house of Körmeling is a monumental, amusing and daring city entrance for the cultural city of Tilburg. Not just nationally but also internationally this will place Tilburg on the map. The house will lead to associations with the fair, traffic and symbolically restores the ribbon building typical of Tilburg.
John Körmeling is an artist yet originally an architect. With his self-willed working style and his surprisingly clear vision of daily life Körmeling has conquered the hearts of many. Typical of his work is the putting-in-perspective humour it represents. His crystal-clear ideas regularly conjure a smile on the face of the spectator.
In the Netherlands as well as abroad John Körmeling made a name for himself thanks to a number of remarkable projects. In 2003, for example, Körmeling worked on the art project 'Echigo-Tsumari Three Year Anniversary’ in Japan. He surprised, within the framework of this project, the inhabitants of the Japanese city of Matsunoyama with a 25-meter high map titled “Hot Spring” in which the visitor can climb. His 'Drive-in wheel', a Ferris wheel for cars, loosened the tongues in Canada during an overview exhibition at The Power Plant in Toronto. Another extraordinary example is the floating cash register John Körmeling designed for the round-trip boats in Leiden in 2001.
Throughout the years Körmeling has been engaged in over 200 projects. In his book of ideas “A good book” a large number of these works pass in review. The last couple of years the career of this artist has gained momentum. In 2004 Körmeling received two prestigious designer awards in Japan for his 'Hot Spring'. In 2005 Körmeling designed an entrance for the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum as also for the Middelheim Open Air Museum for Sculpture in Antwerp and in 2006 he designed an entrance cabin for the Van Abbe Museum. John Körmeling has recently been asked to prepare a design for the Dutch pavilion at the world exhibition in Shanghai (2010).
The budget for this art assignment amounts to € 400,000.00 excluding VAT. The ground activities and the foundation are carried out by the company Liebregts from Middelbeers and the building of the house by the company Moker from Belgium. The house is finalised by John Körmeling. The rotating mechanism is prepared by KMG from Neede.
As a location for art the Hasselt roundabout has a long history. The Hasselt roundabout was constructed in 1959, as of the eighties the roundabout has been designated as an art location. For various reasons it, however, took up to date before concrete plans became available to place a piece of art at the Hasselt roundabout.
In 1999 John Körmeling received the assignment to prepare a skeleton design. His idea was to place a rotating house on the roundabout which would rotate at the same speed as the traffic. This was such a spectacular design that it led to the necessary (political) difficulties and eventually the design was turned down by the municipal council due to the unsafe traffic situation.
In 2001 John Körmeling received the assignment to prepare a skeleton design for the Rotating House for the second time. The reason why it would be unsafe to the traffic situation was removed and, as a slowly Rotating House, the piece of art was again presented to the municipal council. In 2003 John Körmeling received the assignment to further elaborate the house and to present a definitive design. This took quite some time as a lot of people and parties from within as well as outside of the municipality had to be consulted to ensure that the design would meet all the requirements. The definitive design was first presented to the Advisory Committee and was subsequently approved by the municipal council in April 2005. To ensure that it could actually be built within the context of the applicable municipal land use plans a municipal land use plan procedure was started. A participation evening was organised and the design was elucidated to the Land Use Council Committee on account of the fact that the municipal council had to approve the land use substantiation. This again led to a fierce discussion at the municipal council about the spending of community funds for visual art at public locations. The municipal council, however, agreed to the land use substantiation. The article 19.1 procedure was concluded in May 2006 and John Körmeling received the assignment to carry out his design. The building permit was granted in November 2006. The house actually was finished and presented in April 2008.