Gregorius Halman, Kasteel Olt Stoutenburght (Old Stoutenburght Castle)
84 Markeweg, Blesdijke, Friesland
About the Artist/Site
Gregorius Halman, the owner of a company in Zwolle that rents clothes for parties and special occasions, had a dream to build a Roman-style construction with round and fluid forms, in contrast to the stark lines of contemporary functonalist designs. During his lunch break he would visit Zwolle’s public library to study books about Roman architecture.
He wanted to construct a castle as an annex to his house in the small countryside community of Blesdijke, in the southern area of Friesland. Around 1990 he presented his idea to the local authorities, and although it took him two years to convince them, he succeeded in receiving permission to build, provided that the towers would not rise higher than 27 meters (89 feet).
In 1992, in his mid-forties, Halman, who had no training in architecture or construction at all, single-handedly began his lifetime project of building his castle. The basement, some two meters below the surface level, has cellars inhabited by bats; above ground the construction rises up four stories, and the roof is fitted with a glass dome.
Halman’s primary construction material are old bricks that he has recycled from demolished houses and roads. The heavy entrance doors came from an old Dutch prison, the big conference table was originally located in a nearby townhall, and the fireplace in the central room once stood in an English country house. Halman is not concerned about architectural, historical, or military compatibility but rather about the confluence of fluid shapes. The building is not a copy of an existing structure, but a product of his imagination.
In interviews Halman says that in his dreams he sees beautiful lines and curves, which he tries to realize in the building, although the result is often less beautiful than in his dreams. He also explains that his activity is not an obession, but that he experiences much pleasure in being constructively engaged, and the process is, for him, more important than the finished product. Indeed, he says that he will regret the day that the building is completed.
The castle’s name is associated with Toutenburght, once a fortification in a nearby area. In Stoutenburght the word stout in Old Dutch means brave, although in contemporary Dutch it means naughty, while burght means citadel.
~Henk van Es
Map & Site Information
Latitude/Longitude: 52.830164 / 6.013404