In the transition area between the historic city centre and the painters’ district, there is a fairy-tale building on one of the former city walls. They were built a century ago as accommodation for the Geology Department of the University of Groningen. Together with the Physics Laboratory, which was built by the same architect, this Mineralogical-Geological Institute, known locally as the ‘Vlintenhoes’ but these days as ‘the Castle’, dominates the view of the corner between Westersingel, Verlengde Visserstraat and Melkweg.
This Neo-Gothic building with the tower of Foucault and its famous pendulum, the hall with the geometric patterns and the Escher ceiling, the stairwell with the stained-glass windows, the gothic pointed arch windows and the richly decorated stairwells are an architectural attraction, a museum in their own right.
Besides its unusual architecture, Hét Kasteel is perhaps even better known for one of its illustrious previous inhabitants, W.F. Hermans, famous for his authorship and his very special relationship with the University and his students.
Up to the 1990s, the University of Groningen owned this historical building but in July 1996 it was acquired by Noorderpoort. As the building no longer performed any teaching functions and to make sure it did not become dilapidated, the Anti-vacancy group Carex was based there for a few years.
After the acquisition of Hét Kasteel, the adjacent Physics Laboratory and the corresponding land, the restoration was started under the auspices of Monumentenzorg, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. For example, the slate roofs were relaid, the stained-glass windows were repaired, the rooms restored to their original shapes where possible and a new colour scheme was determined following an historical paint study. The restoration under the leadership of Monumentenzorg produced a look that matches the grandeur of such a listed building. The layout was also adjusted to the new function of the building.
The listed building has had a multifunctional purpose since its completion. The museum room has been converted into a modern conference room and there are very representative meeting rooms. The refurbished central lobby with its brilliant marble floor can operate as a reception hall or room.