Friday, May 16, 2008

Disastrous Fire at Delft University

The Faculty of Architecture and surrounding buildings at Technical University Delft (Netherlands) have been destroyed by a massive fire. No one was injured, but a large number of rare books and maps are believed lost. MapHist curator Dr. Peter van der Krogt writes:

"The Faculty has (or must I sadly write: had) one of the most important libraries in the field of Architecture, with 40,000 books including several atlases (Blaeu, Braun & Hogenberg), and a map collection of 12,000 maps (topographical maps of the 19th century, soil maps, planning maps of the Noordoostpolder, Berlage's plans of the new parts of Amsterdam and The Hague, and the plans for the rebuilding of Rotterdam after WW II). The older maps (pre-1850) were stored in the University Library.

"The fate of the library is not known yet. The map curator, Addie Ritter, wrote that his depot is almost certainly destroyed, since it was in the part of the building that collapsed. The library, which was on the ground flour of a different wing of the building, is not accessible because the building is instable. It can take three to four weeks before it may be entered (the building of 14 [or 13] stories has to be demolished first). The older books were in a safe, but if that save[d] them is unknown (the fire lasted for about 24 hours)."

A report from the Chronicle of Higher Ed includes some horrifying video of the fire. Other reports note that some chairs on site for an exhibit were removed from the building unharmed, as were 80 architectural models. Touring the area, education minister Ronald Plasterk called the destruction of the building the "biggest disaster in the history of Dutch university education."

"Authorities believe the fire was started by a water leak in a coffee machine, which led to a short circuit."

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