Perimeter block
Eigen Haard
de Klerk, Michel | Amsterdam, The Netherlands | 1913-1920
Image of Eigen Haar...
General view of facade along the east side of the block.

ProjectEigen Haard
Architectde Klerk, Michel
CityAmsterdam
CountryThe Netherlands
AddressSpaarndammerplantsoen/Zaanstraat/Oostzaanstraat
Building TypePerimeter block
Number of DwellingsNA
Date Built1913-1920
Dwelling Types2-3 bra. flats
No. Floors4
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
Materials
brick, wood windows
Construction Typemasonry
Ancillary Servicespost office, school, meeting room some balconies

Even though industrialization and urbanization were late in arriving in Holland, the 1901 Housing Act was passed in response to poor housing conditions and the need for organized planning in a small country. The Housing Act provided financing arrangements and the creation of cooperative housing associations to build housing. These housing "corporations" have been responsible for the commission of a large percentage of housing built in Holland in this century. One of these corporations, "Eigen Haard" (Our Hearth) developed much of the workers' housing built in the Spaarndammerbuurt district west of central Amsterdam along the IJ River. This area developed during the period 1915-1920 and includes several buildings by Michael De Klerk including "Het Schip" (The Ship) which is perhaps the most famous of the Amsterdam School buildings. Het Schip is literally the flag ship of Amsterdam School building establishing De Klerk as the best known of the Amsterdam School architects.

The Spaarndammer district consists of an irregular pattern of perimeter block buildings in an area between the main railroad tracks into the city from the west and the docks along the river. De Klerk's first commission, his first real commission after over 20 years in the younger Cuyper's office, but one of three buildings he designed around the park was for the building on one side of a central park in the neighborhood (Spaarndammerplantsoen). Built in 1913-1915 for a private client, this block shows many of the characteristics of typical Amsterdam School buildings: brick, five stories tall, with a full facade on the top floor instead of a mansard roof, and a distinct emphasis upon variations of materials and details. The other two buildings around the park were built for Eigen Haard. The first of these was on the opposite side of the park from the first and reveals an even more developed Amsterdam style now with odd windows, turrets, stairs and entrances, was built in 1916.

The third project includes a whole block, the tip of which fronts the park. This was built between 1917-1920. An odd-shaped, irregular triangular perimeter slab defines an small interior garden area. Dwellings have entrance from the street in point access system of repeating entrances and stairs and have balconies facing the garden. The five story height of the previous Spaarndammer buildings is roughly followed, however, the block steps down to three floors at the East end where it faces the park. A post office was designed for this end of the building and thus makes a public space facing a small paved plaza which is the extension of the park. A turret at this end marks the entrance to the post office. A small entrance next to the turret leads to a small paved inner courtyard from which entrance is made to several dwellings and which opens to small cottage like meeting room which sets as freestanding element at the end of the interior garden. The building steps up from the post office end to the typical 5 story block. A strong horizontal emphasis is maintained with continuous faceted strip windows and continuous brick bands, and other repetitive elements including the traditional attic lifts, and windows and entrances. At the west end of the block, the building steps back with a strange, steeple like tower fronting a small paved plaza in a symmetrical organization axially aligned with Walenhamp's more traditional block across the street. On the north side of the block, along Oostzaanstraat, a public school occupies two floor of the building making a formal interruption to the facade.

While the overall form and organization is an angular stepping ensemble, De Klerk applies many local symmetrical episodes at entrances, windows the western tower, balconies and other applied elements. The resulting effect, within the context of this peculiar, vaguely expressionistic, Maritime mass is the impression of repetitive order, a veneer or classical detail and a distinctly naturalistic, organic quality. The basic order of the block is one of repeating five story blocks organized around a common stair.

The Amsterdam School housing was widely criticized because it was thought to be too luxurious for municipally-financed social housing. But, in actual fact, while there are a lot of different apartment plans because of all of the peculiar intersections, and there are many dwellings which have unusual qualities, corner turrets, balconies, or slightly unconventional plans, in reality these are quite minimal 2 and 3 bedroom dwellings with a small living room, kitchen and W.C.

The Amsterdam urban renewal program of 1968 began in the Spaarndammerbuurt when dilapidated buildings were removed, new buildings built. In the years since most of the historic Amsterdam School social housing has been refurbished and today they appear to be in excellent condition having provided quality dwelling for lower income citizens continuously for over 75 years. It is interesting to note that the construction of De Klerk's "ship" was exactly contemporary with the emergence of the Functionalist movement and even though J.J.P. Oud's classic Functionalist housing experiment Kiefhoek was built five years later, Kiefhoek has since been entirely removed and rebuilt.

Suzanne S. Frank, Michel De Klerk, 1884-1923, UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, 1984, pp. 51-64.

Thom Gorst,

Maristella Casciato/Wim de Wit, Le case Eigen Haard di De Klerk, officina edizioni, Rome, 1984.

Joseph Buch, A Century of Architecture in The Netherlands, NAI, Rotterdam, c. 1995, pp. 68-86.

Manfred Bock, Sigrid Johannisse & Vladimir Stissi, Michel de Klerk Architect and Artist of the Amsterdam School 1884-1923, NAI Publishers, Rotterdam, 1997, pp. 239--248; 57-93.

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