The Amsterdam School (Dutch: Amsterdamse School) is a style of architecture that arose from 1910 through about 1930 in the Netherlands. The Amsterdam School movement is part of international Expressionist architecture, sometimes linked to German Brick Expressionism.
Buildings of the Amsterdam School are characterized by brick construction with complicated masonry with a rounded or organic appearance, relatively traditional massing, and the integration of an elaborate scheme of building elements inside and out: decorative masonry, art glass, wrought ironwork, spires or “ladder” windows (with horizontal bars), and integrated architectural sculpture. The aim was to create a total architectural experience, interior and exterior.
The Amsterdam School is characterized by the use of expressive and fantastic forms, related to expressionism. In a certain sense, it is also a reaction to the rational work of HP Berlage and in particular at the Beurs van Berlage (1898-1903), which therefore does not belong to the Amsterdam School but can be seen as the beginning of the Dutch traditionalism . The development can also be explained by the transition from New Art and the foreign variants as Art Nouveau and Art Nouveau to what later – especially in the decorative arts, also counted as art deco . In 1916, Michel de Klerk criticized the working method of Berlage and indirectly described in what way the new movement distanced itself from this.
The most important architects of the Amsterdam School were Michel de Klerk , Piet Kramer and JM van der Meij , who all worked at Eduard Cuypers’ office in Amsterdam. Around 1910 they started for themselves and together they developed a new architectural style. In 1923 De Klerk died. The Amsterdam School thus lost its main figurehead, although the style would continue to exist for more than a decade. Also many other architects who later are reckoned to other directions started to build in the style of the Amsterdam School such as JB van Loghem .
In 1925, for example, the Dutch Pavilion in Amsterdam School Architecture was executed at the World Exhibition in Paris after a design by Jan Frederik Staal . The design of this pavilion was entirely in the style of the new art, including the Amsterdam School. The architect Jan Gratama also built buildings in the Amsterdam School style and was the first architect who used this term.
Characteristic of the Amsterdam School is the use of a lot of brick and the use of decorations in the façades, in brick or carved natural stone. The often plastic facades are usually filled with ladder windows and are crowned with steep roofs and sometimes decorated with turrets. The plastic character and the sometimes even symbolically applied supporting structure sometimes caused problems in the application of the actual supporting construction.
Hendrik Wijdeveld gave the following description at the time:
“The appearance of the Fantasies, who play innocently with the treasures of rationalism , sacrificing the practical division and the interest in the constructive element for a far-advanced principle, namely the principle of the predetermined form.”
Buildings from the Amsterdam School period are mainly large (social) housing projects , schools and some utilitarian works. Due to the plastic façades and the playful layout of this, there is rarely any kind of massiveness in the buildings within this style. They are big, but they still look human.
The expressionism of the Amsterdam School was the opposite of the New Building .
An important role within the Amsterdam School played the monthly Wendingen . Yet not exclusively architecture was shown that can now be counted among the Amsterdam School. One of the figureheads of the Nieuwe Bouwen, the Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam, was also extensively depicted. The magazine was created in January 1918 on the initiative of several members of the society Architectura et Amicitia , an association of architects, visual artists, architects et cetera, who, in contrast to the more technical Architectural Weekblad , wanted to pay more attention to the neglected according to them. aesthetic aspects of architecture.
One of the founders was Hendrik Wijdeveld , who was in charge until 1925 and also took care of the typography, until the magazine was dissolved at the end of 1931. A lot of care was given to typography and design. The design for the square cover was always taken care of by another artist. The editors often changed members. The first editors included CJ Blaauw , Piet Kramer , Mathieu Lauweriks and Richard Roland Holst .
Wendingen was by no means just an architectural magazine. Attention was paid to many forms of art, such as building sculpture, alien art forms, wall paintings , early Italian painting , book ventilation , posters , theater and dance , masks , puppets , interiors , graphics and shells . The magazine also did not limit itself to the Amsterdam School: numerous movements at home and abroad received ample attention.
The Amsterdam School style spread beyond architecture to encompass interior design, with the result that items ranging from furniture and carpets to lamps and clocks were produced. Interest revived in the 1970s as well as at the beginning of the 21st century.
Origins of the Amsterdam School
The Amsterdam School had its origins in the office of architect Eduard Cuypers in Amsterdam. Although Cuypers was not a progressive architect himself, he gave his employees plenty of opportunity to develop. The three leaders of the Amsterdam School Michel de Klerk, Johan van der Mey and Piet Kramer all worked for Cuypers until about 1910. In 1905 Amsterdam was the first city to establish a building code, and the city hired Johan van der Mey afterwards, in the special position as “Aesthetic Advisor”, to bring artistic unity and vision to its built environment.
Van der Mey’s major commission, the 1912 cooperative-commercial Scheepvaarthuis (Shipping House), is considered the starting point of the movement, and the three of them collaborated on that building. The most Amsterdam School buildings are found in this city. The movement and its followers played an important role in Berlage’s overall plans for the expansion of Amsterdam.
The most important architects and virtuoso artists of the Amsterdam School were Michel de Klerk and Piet Kramer. Other members included Jan Gratama (who gave it its name), Berend Tobia Boeyinga, P. H. Endt, H. Th. Wijdeveld, J. F. Staal, C. J. Blaauw, and P. L. Marnette. The journal Wendingen (“Windings” or “Changes”), published between 1918 and 1931, was the magazine of the Amsterdam School movement.
After De Klerk died in 1923, the style lost its importance. The De Bijenkorf Store in the Hague by Piet Kramer from 1926 is considered to be the last example of “classic” Amsterdam School Expressionism.
The influence of the Amsterdam School continued in the Dutch East Indies, where one of its leading proponents was the pioneering Indonesian architect Liem Bwan Tjie.
Different Modern Movements in the 1920s
Imbued with socialist ideals, the Amsterdam School style was often applied to working-class housing estates, local institutions and schools. For many Dutch towns Hendrik Berlage designed the new urban schemes, while the architects of the Amsterdam School were responsible for the buildings. With regard to the architectural style, Michel de Klerk had a different vision than Berlage. In the magazine “Bouwkundig Weekblad 45/1916” Michel de Klerk criticized Berlage’s recent buildings in the style of Dutch Traditionalism. In this context, the Stock Exchange by Berlage of 1905 can be seen as the starting point of Traditionalist architecture. From 1920 to 1930 different parallel movements developed in the Netherlands:
Traditionalism (Kropholler, partly Berlage)
Expressionism (de Klerk, Kramer)
De Stijl (Rietveld, Oud, van Doesburg with manifesto De Stijl/1917 against the “Modern Baroque” of the Amsterdam School)
Rationalism (van Eesteren, van Tijen, Merkelbach with manifesto De-8/1927 against the Amsterdam School)
Constructivism (Duiker, van der Vlugt)
The specific Brick-Cubism by Dudok and Berlage.
The Expressionist architecture of the Amsterdam School was the most successful style of the 1920s. For many foreign architects, Amsterdam was the “Mecca” for new town extensions. But the Traditionalist movement lasted longer, until the 1950s, thanks to the so-called Delft School, represented by Martinus Grampré Molière at the Delft University of Technology. In the 1960s the Rationalist movement was dominant. In a well-known speech, the Dutch Rationalist, Willem van Tijen declared the Amsterdam School a warning example for architects (published in Forum 9/1960-61). After the death of Piet Kramer in 1961, no architectural institution or museum was interested in his Expressionist work. For that reason, all his drawings, blueprints and models were burnt.
The largest concentration of Amsterdam School buildings can be found in Amsterdam, such as the Plan Zuid designed by Berlage, the Olympic Stadium (next to Plan-Zuid) by Jan Wils , the Scheepvaarthuis by JM van der Meij , the residential building in the Spaarndammer neighborhood of Michel de Klerk. and school buildings by, among others, Cornelis Kruyswijk and Nicolaas Lansdorp . Various expressions of this style can also be found in Plan West . In Tuindorp Oostzaan and Tuindorp Nieuwendam in Amsterdam-Noord the Amsterdam School manifests itself in a national variant of, among others, Berend Tobia Boeyinga . Boeyinga also built a number of Reformed churches in this style.
In Amsterdam, many bridges have also been performed in the style of the Amsterdam School. Many of these Amsterdam bridges were designed by Piet Kramer.
Since 2001, in a residential block of Michel de Klerk at the Spaarndammerplantsoen at no. 140 Museum Het Schip , where much information can be found about the Amsterdam School. Here you can also view a collection of Amsterdam street furniture in the style of the Amsterdam School. An outbuilding is located in the De Dageraad complex in Amsterdam-Zuid.
Also outside Amsterdam was built in the style of the Amsterdam School. This can be seen in buildings of Willem Dudok in Hilversum , Park Meerwijk in Bergen (North Holland) ( Jan Frederik Staal , Cornelis Blaauw with the Ship van Blaauw in Wageningen , Piet Kramer , Margaret Staal-Kropholler , Ad van der Steur in Rotterdam , Guillaume la Croix ), and the work of Siebe Jan Bouma and Egbert Reitsmain Groningen .
Various architects were active in the city and province of Groningen. Unlike in other medium-sized cities, where it was often a loner that put the Amsterdam School on the map, it was in Groningen several names that jointly shaped the movement. Berend Jager , Willem Reitsema , Egbert Reitsma , Siebe Jan Bouma , Evert van Linge , JA Boer , Albert Wiersema and Kuiler and Drewes are some Groninger architects.
In the Overijssel town of Kuinre the water tower is partly built in this style. De Bijenkorf in The Hague by Piet Kramer from 1924-1926 is considered the last great example of this style.
Amsterdam School in other applications
Not only the architecture was decisive for the Amsterdam School but also in other applications this style was used. Well-known designers such as W. Retera Wzn , JJ Zijffers, KPC de Bazel , Paul Bromberg and Anton Kurvers – just to name a few – also designed furniture such as tables , chairs , armchairs , clocks , lamps , wallpaper , bookbindings and textiles . An important sales address for some of the products mentioned was Metz & Co in Amsterdam.
Street furniture in Amsterdam
Various types of street furniture in the city of Amsterdam were designed in the style of the Amsterdam school, much of it since 1918 by Pieter Lucas Marnette , such as the standing blue Gemeentegiro bus, fire alarm posts (the ‘red guard’) and lampposts (the ‘front soldier’) . Of the electrical distribution boxes and splitskasten there is still a large number scattered throughout Amsterdam: these have been placed in almost the same form for at least thirty years. The hanging letter boxes of the municipal giro were designed by Anton Kurvers . A collection of street furniture in the style of the Amsterdam School can be viewed at Museum Het Schip at the Spaarndammerplantsoen.
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