Amsterdam School architecture

by Tanja
Museum Het Schip, Amsterdam

The Amsterdam School architecture style might not be as famous as its international sister styles from the same era like Art Nouveau and Jugendstil, its beauty is certainly so. In the last decade, this rather outrageous Amsterdam architecture and art style has seen a revival in its appreciation. 

Amsterdam School

The Amsterdam School is an architecture that was completely new in the beginning of the 20th century. Up until then, the neo-classical styles were common in Amsterdam: neo-gothic, neo-renaissance and baroque styles. The young architects who lived in the beginning of the 20th century wanted something completely different.

The young architects and artists took their inspiration from nature and its natural, organic shapes as well as mathematical geometric forms. Curved lines were united with flowing forms with more angular contours. 

Amsterdam School style
Expressive entrance to the Scheepvaarthuis, the first building in Amsterdam School style,

A romantic, expressionist style

The three young friends who created the new style are the architects Van der Mey, De Klerk and Kramer. Their designs are a strange mix of romantics, expressionism, and fantasy. Journalists soon called the new style the Amsterdam School (Amsterdamse School).

The Scheepvaarthuis

The first building in the Amsterdam School style was the Scheepvaarthuis. This ‘Shipping House’ was finished in 1916. (It is now the Amrath Hotel). The order came from 6 of the largest shipping companies in Amsterdam. The result was a rather mysterious office palace.

The Amsterdam School developed into a total art style. Not only buildings and bridges were created, but also graphic art and furniture.

  • Amsterdamse School
  • Amsterdam school door
  • Het Schip Amsterdamse School
  • Museum 'The Ship' in Amsterdam
  • Amsterdam School at De New Pijp
  • Amsterdam School in De Pijp
  • Amsterdamse School architecture

Creating better living conditions for the working class

The Amsterdam School architects had ideals. They wanted to use art to create a better society. In some parts of Amsterdam, the working class lived in slums. A new united front of government and private housing corporations started housing projects on a grand scale to better the living conditions of the poor.

The time was right: socialism was popular. In 1901 a revolutionary Dutch Housing Law was approved. This law stated the basic conditions for a new house in detail.

Amsterdam 19th century slums
A replica of a house for a family of 8 in 19th century Amsterdam at Museum Het Schip.

A palace for the working class

To create these ‘palaces for the working class’, everything was allowed and possible. Every craft, art, shape and colour was used: brickwork, masonry, art glass, wrought ironwork, ‘ladder’ windows, strange towers ad roof tiles used to decorate the facade. Amsterdam School sculpturer Hildo Krop made the most fantastic sculptures.

Amsterdam school style pissoir
A pissoir in Amsterdam School style. Oudezijds Voorburgwal.

Amsterdam school: ugly, expensive and useless

The popularity of Amsterdam School style architecture was short-lived: between 1915 and 1930. Critics pointed out the many unpractical parts of the designs, the huge construction costs and the outrageousness of the style. Until the 1980s the style was considered ugly and useless.

Museum The Ship

Fortunately, in recent years, the Amsterdam School style has seen a revival. At Spaarndammerbuurt Museum The Ship was opened.

The museum is housed in one of the most famous examples of Amsterdam School architecture. The building was designed by Michel de Klerk. It is called ‘The Ship’, because it looks a bit like a ship.

At the museum, there is a presentation of Amsterdam School architecture. It also explains the history of the style and the history of social housing in the Netherlands.

Het Schip (‘The Ship’, a public housing complex in Spaarndammerbuuurt, Amsterdam also houses a museum where you learn about the Amsterdam School style and the history of social housing.

Where to see Amsterdam School architecture

There are many examples of Amsterdam School architecture. Neighborhoods De Baarsjes, Oud-Zuid, De Pijp, and Rivierenbuurt are built in this style. It’s beautiful to see the little details in the architecture: from the street lights, mailbox, doorbells, house numbers but also the interior design: the furniture, clocks, and carpet.

You can download a map of all the locations.

Spaarndammerbuurt – Museum The Ship
Museum The Ship is open daily.
Every hour there are guided tours.
In summer there are excursion by bus and boat.
Check website for more information. 

The Pijp (south side) – housing complex De Dageraad
P.L. Takstraat/Burgemeester Tellegenstraat
A visitors centre for De Dageraad is located Burgemeester Tellengenstraat 128.
Open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 Am tot 5 PM.
There is a small library (free entrance) and friendly staff to explain.
Check website for guided tours.

Het Scheepvaarthuis – Hotel Grand Hotel Amrath
Prins Hendrikkade/hoek Binnenkant
Free to take a peek. At times there are guided tours organised by Het Schip museum.
Check website for details.,

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