Het Olympisch Stadion

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We were staying directly across from the Olympisch Stadion, built as the main stadium for the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. It’s a brick built Amsterdam School style structure, designed by the Dutch architect Jan Wils.

Due to renovation works taking place on a couple of Art Deco style buildings at the front of the stadium and an entrance that had been built to the stadium which was being used as a skating rink (the Dutch love skating), we couldn’t see much of the building, but I popped over for half an hour one afternoon to take a closer look.

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Built of brick, in keeping with the Amsterdam School style the walls have decorative features including flower boxes and projections.

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The Marathontoren (Marathon Tower) is positioned asymmetrically in front of the Marathonpoort (Marathon Gateway) – it’s here where the Olympic flame burned for the duration of the Games

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The tower is lit up at night and we could see it from the street outside the hotel and our bedroom window.

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Round the back of the stadium there was a sculpture of Johan Cruyff and Berti Vogts who played on opposite sides during the 1974 World Cup Final between the Netherlands and West Germany.

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A wander round Den Haag

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After our visit to the Mauritshuis we decided to explore the town and grab a bite to eat. It was a cold, grey day, so not so great for sightseeing and taking photos, and we hadn’t really done any research about the sights, so we restricted ourselves to a brief, unstructured walk in the older area to the west of the museum, stopping off in a café for hot drink and a bite to eat.

The Mauritshuis is next to the Binnehof, the home of the Dutch Parliament. Despite this, security was minimal and we were able to walk right through the central courtyard

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This is the Royal residence in the city, the Noordeinde Palace. It’s currently used as a “working palace” by the KIng.

DSC03132 Meandering through the old streets I was reminded a little of Brussels. Like the Belgian capital the streets were lined with individually designed buildings rather than regimented rows.And like Brussels, there were quite a few Art Nouveau influenced buildings. There was clearly much more to see but time was limited and it was cold! Here’s a few photos of some of the more interesting buildings we saw.

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These are some of the Art Nouveau/ Jugendstil style, or influenced, buildings I spotted

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This building, with it’s decorative brickwork, looked like it was influenced by the Amsterdam School, although there are also some Art Decoish features

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This rather grand former restaurant is now the home of the Pathe Cinema

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We had a peek inside

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Amsterdam Oud Zuid architecture

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During our recent trip to Amsterdam we were staying on the edge of the area known as Oud Zuid (the Old South) on Stadionplein, directly across from the Olympic Stadium. The area was developed at the beginning of the 20th Century. Travelling on the tram to and from the city centre I’d noticed that many of the buildings had features that suggested that they’d been designed by architects from the Amsterdam School, so I decided to go for a bit of a mooch and look into this further.

The area was developed under the Plan Zuid, which was designed by the architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage and many of the architects were from the Amsterdam School.

Although the  Amsterdam School movement is considered to be part of international Expressionist architecture, there are features reminiscent of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco in their buildings. As with most architectural movements, each building has it’s own features, but there are some common characteristics.

  • The architects’ emphasis was on the outward appearance of a building and less on its functionality – “Form before function”
  • the buildings are mainly constructed from bricks – often different shapes, textures and and colours of brick are used.
  • The windows are often eye-catching shapes,
  • There is great attention to detail and ornamentation, including sculptures, wrought iron decorations and stained-glass windows.
  • The facades often have curves and bulges, concave and convex shapes
  • The corner buildings or buildings at the end of a complex, often emphasized by a tower-like element.
  • The entrances and staircases are often highlighted by a special shape or decorations in stone or wrought iron.

I spent a good couple of hours wandering around the streets snapping photos, even though it was rather grey and cold with some rain showers. Here’s a few of the pictures I took.

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Windows and doors tend to be particularly ornate

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Although most of the buildings were residential blocks, I did spot a few individual houses with characteristic Amsterdam School features

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Some More Amsterdam School Buildings

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After visiting De Dageraad I spent some time exploring the south part of De Pijp looking at the many Amsterdam School buildings that were constructed during the early years of the 20th Century as part of Plan Zuid. Like De Dageraad, the majority were built on behalf of housing co-operatives to provide good standard accommodation for ordinary workers who had previously lived in slums in the Jordaan, the old Jewish Quarter and other older parts of the city.

Although the  Amsterdam School movement is considered to be part of international Expressionist architecture, there are features reminiscent of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco in their buildings. As with most architectural movements, each building has it’s own features, but there are some common characteristics.

  • The architects’ emphasis was on the outward appearance of a building and less on its functionality – “Form before function”
  • the buildings are mainly constructed from bricks – often different shapes, textures and and colours of brick are used.
  • The windows are often eye-catching shapes,
  • There is great attention to detail and ornamentation, including sculptures, wrought iron decorations and stained-glass windows.
  • The facades often have curves and bulges, concave and convex shapes
  • The corner buildings or buildings at the end of a complex, often emphasized by a tower-like element.
  • The entrances and staircases are often highlighted by a special shape or decorations in stone or wrought iron.

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This building was a public bath house

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The Amsterdam School architects also designed many bridges over the canals in Amsterdam

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There are Amsterdam School buildings in other areas of Amsterdam. These are a few I spotted wandering round the city centre

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De Dageraad

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During the Saturday afternoon of my short visit to Amsterdam I took the tram to the south part of the De Pijp area of the city. I wanted to take a look at the Amsterdam School buildings that had been constructed in the area from 1917 as part of town planner Hendrik Petrus Berlage’s Plan Zuid to provide housing for the city’s workers who were living in sub-standard accommodation (i.e. slums). This had become feasible due to the enactment of a special law (Woningwet, 1901) that made provided finance for the municipalities and the housing cooperatives to build dwellings for workers.

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I particularly wanted to visit De Dageraad (‘The Dawn’) complex which had been built for the socialist housing association of the same name. It had been designed by Piet Kramer and Michel de Klerk two of the leading architects of the “Amsterdam School” and it’s a particularly impressive example of this style of architecture.  Between them, the two men designed residential and commercial buildings and the complex also included two parks, and a library.

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The Amsterdam style is characterised by by buildings constructed of brick with decorative elements, and there are plenty of those at De Dageraad – curves, steps and towers, and abstract forms dominate. There hardly seems to be a square corner on the blocks of apartments. These features added to the cost of the project and the architects were criticised by conservative elements who didn’t think workers needed to live in “fancy” buildings. But de Klerk and Kramer were Socialists who believed workers had a right to live in “palaces” which would inspire them and where they could build a better life – a similar philosophy to the Arts and Crafts Movement in the UK. The three- and four-room units provided a considerable improvement in living standards for their tenants. The decorative elements also provided work for unemployed craftsmen and stonemasons.

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There’s a Visitors’ Centre in the complex which is open at weekends. I signed up for the next guided tour. it transpired I was the only one for that time slot, so I got a personal tour of the complex!

“Ladder style” windows dominate

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Curved projections on the roof line

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Here roof tiles are used for a decorative, rather than functional, purpose. Different colours of brickwork are used to create a decorative effect and the dark bricks are laid at vertically rather than horizontally.

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Deep recesses in the roof and tall chmineys

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A curved corner tower

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More decorative use of roof tiles, balconies and a rounded corner tower

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An interesting stairwell tower

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Curved corners wrap around the entrance

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Here we can see how different coloured bricks are used to create a design element

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Brickwork laid to create a decorative feature

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A rooster representing the Dawn

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A monument to Socialist Alderman Floor Wibaut (1859-1936), who was the driving force behind this large-scale public housing project in the Amsterdam School architectural style.

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A doorway. Notice the distinctive font used for the house numbers

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An associated complex the Coöperatiehof (Cooperation court) is an ensemble of three blocks of workers’ houses and a library. This might not seem particularly revolutionary to us but at the beginning of the 20th Century in Amsterdam workers did not have easy access to books and there were few libraries.

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As the Dagaraad was a Socialist housing Co-operative the library was meant to provide an alternative to the church on a Sunday. Workers were encourage to visit and choose and read their own books rather than go to church and have the bible foisted on them. The building was even provided with a bell tower which symbolises the intellectual elevation of the worker

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On the back wall of the library there’s a monument to J.W.C. Tellegen (1859-1921), who was Director of Municipal Housing and Building Control from 1901 to 1915 and Mayor of Amsterdam from 1915 to 1921.

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Gunters and Meuser

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I spotted this striking brick building on the Jordaan side of Prinsengracht, on the corner of Egelantiers. It was built in 1917 by architects Vorkink and Wormser for a hardware company and is very typical of the Amsterdam School of architecture. Although the  movement is considered to be part of international Expressionist architecture, there are features reminiscent of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco in their buildings.

Typical of Amsterdam School buildings it’s clad with brick and has distinctive “ladder windows” with horizontal bars and decorative ironwork features.