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Dutch primacy in world trade

Many historic cities in the western part of the Netherlands are known for the canalside houses of the wealthy merchants and the VOC (Dutch East Indies Company) warehouses in which the imported goods were stored. By now many warehouses have been turned into appartments and many canalside houses are now offices.

Stepped-neck-and bell-shaped gables

Outside Amsterdam the original function of the canalside houses has been better preserved as can be seen in some VOC cities outside Amsterdam. There we also find the well-known stepped-neck-and bell-shaped gables.

19-th century workers’ housing by benefactors

HollandTheRideWay will not only pay attention to living conditions of the rich citizen but also to the working-class housing estates set up by rich industrialists in the 19-th and 20-th centuries.

Amsterdam School of architecture

In the wake of the Housing Act of 1901 social democratic town councillors together with progressive architects such as Berlage managed to realise a, for those days, very modern house-building of which still many fine examples can be seen in and also outside Amsterdam.

Steel and glass of the thirties

The Van Nelle Factory , built by the architects Brinkman and Van der Vlugt and completed in 1931 is a steel and glass construction with as its aim not only creating an optimal functioning of the coffee-, tea- and tobacco factory, but also improved working conditions of the employees.
Noticeable is the extremely austere, functional character of the factory buildings which are linked with each other by buildings in which staircases, toilets , washing accommodation and possibilities for vertical transport are included.

Council housing of the 20th century

At the end of the 20 th century the Netherlands were, in fact, the only country in Western Europe where housing had become a very efficient business with council housing of a high standard. Architects show a great deal of social commitment. Lack of space forces them to experiment with new forms of building.
In our programme we pay attention to modern house-building for the lower and middle incomes.

Experimental housing

In some areas of the newly reclaimed land of the Flevopolder, by way of experiment in the eighties, the inhabitants were offered the possibility to build a house in accordance with their own views and preferences. The result was that we can now admire houses that combine the choice of special building materials with ecological soundness and deviant architecture. The houses did not have to comply with legal building regulations and were at first only meant for a period of five years.

Houses like Rainbows

Colours can greatly contribute to creating pleasant housing conditions, which we can see in the Rainbow Quarter in a Flevopolder town with its strict use of colour and uniform partition of premises.

Ashok Balotra

In an old Dutch town Ashok Balotra ,also designer of the national airport of Dubai and the Saud university in Saudi Arabia, created a structure centred around the themes of travelling, discovery, being at home and the four seasons. The Ring, the most important spatial structure, the road for opening up the quarter, a circle as big as the old inner city of the town, symbolizes being at home.
In this newly built quarter all sorts of statues, structures , fountains and bassins were added to the greenstructure. Road signs, benches, lanterns, street lighting, information signs, all this was specially devised for the quarter and installed.

Rotterdam, city of architecture

We shall also pay attention to some other special architectonic objects, especially in Rotterdam.

Pole or Cube dwellings

As a special house-building experiment we must also mention the so-called Pole or Cube dwellings of the architect Piet Blom in Rotterdam.

These houses, built in 1984, catch the eye because of their columns, slanting sides and the forest of roofs under which one can walk. Blom talked about dwelling as a town roof: houses are on a raised level with public facilities underneath.

The pencil and the paper clip

At the foot of the inhabited urban bridge we find the “Pencil”, the apex of Blom’s bizarre world. Carl Weber’s “Paperclip” , containing 549 council houses, has prefab concrete front elements with tiles in different colours which have been placed in such patterns that the individual house is unrecognizable.

The Rotterdam Swan

The swan, a suspension bridge with a bent pylon designed by the architect Ben van Berkel was finished in 1996 and was meant to represent the Rotterdam of the year 2000 by its monumental symbolism.

Solleveld House, pearl of Dutch Functionalism

Rotterdam’s most recent architectural showpiece is the former house of one of the managing directors of the Van Nelle factory, a fine example of Dutch functionalism and built in 1933 by the architects Brinkman and Van der Vlugt, also the designers of the factory.

Destination New York

In the restaurant of Hotel New York, the former passenger terminal of the Holland -America line, and point of departure of many emigrants, beautifully situated in the old but by now radically changed dockland, you can regain your breath after your architecture walk in and near Rotterdam’s “Kop van Zuid” over a drink.

Berlage and Dudok, famous Dutch architects

Masterbuilder Berlage designed the The Hague Municipal Museum (Haags gemeente museum, 1935) By way of a covered gallery between two ponds one reaches the entrance and the high reception hall.


The halls and collections among which Mondrian’s have been grouped in such a way that the undifferentiated structure of the traditional museum was avoided. The exterior of the museum, consisting of yellow brick in an interweaving pattern to accentuate the non-supporting aspect of the walls, is conspicuous because of balconies, pergolas, display cases and stained-glass windows. The high chimneys of the central heating systems and the turrets with lanterns at the entrance are evidence of a symbolic touch in Berlage’s design.

Hiversum Town Hall

In Hilversum the architect Dudok, who worked in the spirit of the Amsterdam School, strongly left his mark in the shape of 75 buildings. Hilversum’s showpiece is Dudok’s greatest creation, the town hall, completed in 1931. In the town hall, forming an entity with the surrounding park, he tried to achieve both monumentality and rurality. His interference went as far as the design of floor covering, curtains, lighting and furniture. He even had a new size of brick designed for the town hall.

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© illustration: Lex Tempelman

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