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.
Similar to Art Nouveau, the Amsterdam School is a reaction to the neo-classical style that had been common in The Netherlands for centuries. Whereas the traditional neo-classical style was inspired by the gothic, renaissance and baroque styles of the past, the architects who lived at the beginning of the 20th century saw something entirely new and different.
The young architects and artists took their inspiration from nature and its natural, organic forms as well as mathematical geometric forms. Curved lines were united with flowing forms with more angular contours.
Romantic, expressionist style
The three young friends who created the new style are the architects Van der Mey, De Klerk and Kramer. Their designs were strange mix of romantics, expressionist and fantasy. Journalists soon called the new style the Amsterdam School (Amsterdamse School).
The first building in the Amsterdam School style was the Scheepvaarthuis, the ‘Shipping House’, finished in 1916 (now Amrath Hotel). The order came from 6 of the largest Amsterdam shipping companies. The result was a rather peculiar luxury office palace.
The Amsterdam School became a total art style. Not only buildings and bridges were created in this style, but also graphic art and furniture.
Creating better living conditions for the working class
The Amsterdam School architects had ideals. They wanted to use art as a means to create a better society. In some parts of Amsterdam, housing of the poor working class were nothing more than 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 and in 1901 the new housing law was approved. This law stated the basic conditions in detail for a new house.
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 decorated the facade. Amsterdam School house sculpturer Hildo Krop made the most fantastic sculptures.
All the neighbourhoods that were created: Spaarndammerbuurt, De Pijp (South) and Amsterdam South looked like one living sculpture. Here, every little detail is part of the design: the street lights, mailbox, doorbells, house numbers but also the interior design: the furniture, clocks, carpet.
RECOMMENDED READ: Museum The Ship in Spaarndammerbuurt is totally dedicated to Amsterdam School and its history.
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 allround outrageousness of the style. Until the 1980s the style was considered ugly and useless.
Revival of Amsterdam School
Fortunately, in recent years, the Amsterdam School style has seen a revival. At Spaarndammerbuurt Museum The Ship was reopened at the building known as The Ship. It’s the most famous example of Amsterdam School, designed by Michel de Klerk. It showcases the decorative style and explains the history of the Amsterdam School architecture and of social housing in The Netherlands.
Where to see Amsterdam School architecture
There are many place to see Amsterdam School architecture, from Baarsjes/Oud-West (West-Indian neighbourhood) to the entire south side (Oud-Zuid: The Pijp and Rivierenbuurt).
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.,