The country estate of Drienerlo and the Boerderij

The country estate of Drienerlo and the Boerderij

In their lobbying efforts for a technical college in Twente, the Municipality of Enschede had a serious trump card up their sleeve: the country estate of Drienerlo, situated between Hengelo and Enschede. The University of Twente still bears reminders of the name of the estate today.

The country estate of Drienerlo was long owned by the Lasonder family. During World War II the owner was their descendant G.A. Lasonder, a farmer and legal expert who was married to a German and who was a prominent member of the Dutch National Socialist Movement. He died in 1944, and in the wake of World War II it was hard for many people to accept that the estate should pass to his wife. Citing Lasonder’s National Socialist activities, the central government seized the estate. It was sold to the Municipality of Enschede for the symbolic sum of one guilder, and was subsequently made available as the site of the Technische Hogeschool Twente (‘Twente Technical College’, THT).

The country estate of Drienerlo offered sufficient space for a technical college that followed the campus model, which required space for both teaching facilities and staff and student residences. The college never renamed the estate; in fact, the name was celebrated. It appears in the names of sports clubs, for instance: the Drienerlo football club (since 1964), the Drienerlo Hockey Club (also since 1964), the Drienerlo Roei-Vereniging (Rowing Club) Euros (since 1965) and the Drienerlo Schaatsvereniging (Skating Club) Skeuvel (since 1966). And of course, there’s the Torentje van Drienerlo (Little Tower of Drienerlo), not to mention that before its relocation the campus hotel was called Drienerburght.

Some of the buildings also offer a reminder of the site’s previous use: the buildings that used to stand on the country estate of Drienerlo, including an entire farm with outbuildings, had to make way for university buildings. Architect Piet Blom, who was then the quintessential ‘angry young man’ of the Dutch architecture world, incorporated the farm’s trusses into his design for the cafeteria, which was aptly christened the ‘Boerderij’ (Farm). The building has an important place in modern Dutch architectural history: the roof of Blom’s Boerderij foreshadows the world-famous Cube Houses he would go on to build in Rotterdam.

For many years the Boerderij’s cafeteria was a central space on campus, quite emphatically the domain of the students – if any staff members wanted to visit the Boerderij, they would have to find a student to introduce them. Blom designed the building to promote a convivial atmosphere, incorporating different levels, niches and a mezzanine floor where people could gather with snacks and watch a game of pool on the floor below. He also installed a seat at an open hearth outside De Boerderij, although in practice this hearth was (and indeed still is) used as bicycle storage instead of as a space to have a beer or two after a meal, as Blom had intended.

With the construction of the Bastille building in 1970, the Boerderij lost its central position in student life: both the cafeteria and the recreation areas were relocated to the new student centre. In 2003, the Boerderij was renovated by Piet Blom’s son Abel, who transformed it into the Faculty Club: a restaurant and meeting space for everyone in the University of Twente community. The relocation of the Faculty Club to the new U-Park Hotel freed up the Boerderij to take on a new purpose.

Although the name ‘Boerderij’ still recalls the former country estate of Drienerlo, many other references to the history of the campus site have been lost. Enschede Drienerlo railway station has been renamed Enschede Kennispark, and the Drienerburght hotel has made way for the U-Park Hotel – there’s a danger that the name of Drienerlo could dwindle into oblivion. And that would be a shame, because it’s so important to keep that connection to history alive; that’s clear from the story behind the seizure of the estate. Even the very best stories can harbour an unexpected twist, reminding us that there’s so much we don’t know. For instance, long after the farm buildings had been demolished to make way for a university campus it was discovered that tenant farmers had sheltered several Jewish people during World War II – and G.A. Lasonder had been fully aware of that fact. In 1969 he was posthumously rehabilitated.

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