Recently, I started indulging myself in short walks around TU Delft when I feel the pressure of my thesis slowly, but surely creeping up on me. These are my small escapes, moments of silence, to think, to reflect and to get some fresh air. On one of these days I was walking through the landscaped park next to the old cemetery known as Jaffa cemetery. Situated along the canal across from the Aula and library, this is the oldest cemetery in Delft. With greenery all around it, it is a unique place where you can spend a quiet afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of the university.
Built in 1868, the cemetery complex contained a small auditorium with a director’s residence close to it. Incidentally, Jaffa cemetery is a national monument as well as a war memorial to commemorate the soldiers who were killed during the German invasion of the Netherlands on May 1940.
During the second world war, the Germans launched attacks on Dutch airspace and took control of many airbases. Paratroopers were dropped by the German army in various airfields across the country as well as at the Royal palace and the seat of Government in The Hague. Thus began the battle of The Hague, with the Dutch army assembling its forces in many neighbouring areas like that of Delft. The battle lasted several days, and the Dutch army eventually surrendered. But none the less, the aerial assault near The Hague ended in victory for the Dutch, as they managed to retain their airbases near the city. However, many soldiers sacrificed their lives that day, and the memorial in Jaffa cemetery is a gentle reminder of their courage and patriotism.
Later on, the municipality of Delft took over the cemetery, and renovated it, adding new additions to the old complex. The new building was designed by 1-10 Architects, an architecture firm based in Rotterdam, as a place to say farewell to past memories. Built in contemporary style, the cemetery features exposed raw materials and a minimalistic style with no decorative elements. The spaces are meant to evoke reminiscences of the war and its casualties, with the landscaped park around it acting as healing spaces. The atmosphere of the cemetery park is tinged with nostalgia and the memories of the past. Indeed, these are places to grieve and remember but they are also great public spaces that represent the cultural heritage of the place. As William Shakespeare famously said, ‘all that live must die, passing through nature to eternity’, and Jaffa cemetery is a wonderful example that highlights that fact.
Malavika Krishnan (25) is a second year MSc Urbanism student from Kochi, India. An architect by profession and a writer by passion, she loves everything to do with art and design and the way they shape the human experience.
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