The Amsterdam School is a style of architecture that developed in the early 1910s in the Dutch capital and remained influential in the entire Netherlands until the early 1930s. It is usually seen as a variant of Expressionist architecture, particularly Brick Expressionism. Its architects drew influence from various sources, such as the Arts and Crafts movement, Art Nouveau, the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, and Art Deco. In the Dutch context, it came into being as a reaction to the sober Traditionalist architecture of Hendrik Berlage.
Buildings of the Amsterdam School are predominantly made of bricks, with complicated decorative masonry and diverse textures. The façades are highly plastic, showing rounded and organic forms. Various materials are used, both outside and inside, most notably wrought iron and stained glass. The abundance of architectural sculpture is another very common feature. It was one of the last styles that relied so much on ornament. Despite the decorative exuberance, the buildings often feel calm and composed.
The most important architects of the Amsterdam School were Joan van der Mey, Michel de Klerk and Piet Kramer. The main sculptor of the style was Hildo Krop. All of them contributed to the design of the Shipping House (1913-1916), an office building for Amsterdam’s leading shipping companies. This structure is considered to be the starting point of the movement.
The style was often used in the design of public structures, such as offices, schools and bridges. It was also widely applied in the housing estates for the working class, most notably in the new districts of Amsterdam South and Amsterdam West. The most important apartment blocks designed in the style of the Amsterdam School are the Schip building (De Klerk, 1917-1921) and the Dageraad complex (De Klerk and Kramer, 1918-1923).
Even though the style originated in Amsterdam, where its most important examples are located, it also had a profound effect on the architecture of a number of other Dutch cities. Groningen and Utrecht stand out for the quantity of the Amsterdam School buildings. The most important individual examples outside the Dutch capital are the Main Post Office of Utrecht (Joseph Crouwel, 1919-1924) and the Bijenkorf department store in The Hague (Kramer, 1926). The influence of the style was also visible in the Dutch East Indies.
The Amsterdam School was not only a style of architecture. It was also applied in other fields of art, such as furniture design. The movement also had its own magazine called Wendingen, famous for its cover illustrations and typography. Its editor-in-chief was Hendrik Wijdeweld. It appeared from 1918 to 1932.
Below I will introduce 35 structures of the Amsterdam School in the Dutch capital. My main source for the descriptions was the website of Museum Het Schip, also called Wendingen. This great website provides more detailed information and more photos about the mentioned buildings. My photos are from July 2020.
You will find the locations of the mentioned buildings on the map below.
Part One: Public Buildings
1. Shipping House (Het Scheepvaarthuis)
Prins Hendrikkade 108-114
First phase: Joan Melchior van der Mey, Adolf Daniël Nicolaas & Johan Godart van Gendt, 1913-1916
Second phase: Joan Melchior van der Mey & Jacobus Johannes Bernardus Franswa, 1926-1928
The Shipping House was the first major building of the Amsterdam School. It was an office building for six leading shipping companies of Amsterdam. The structure was designed by Joan van der Mey and the Van Gendt brothers. The former was responsible for the aesthetic aspects of the building, while the latter created the floor plan and the concrete skeleton.
The Shipping House is one of the most richly decorated office buildings that I know, both outside and inside. It shows a varied use of bricks, abundance of sculptures, elaborate ironwork and elegant stained-glass windows. The decorations are symbolic, with shipping and trade as its main theme, reflecting the power of the Dutch Colonial Empire.
At the main entrance one finds four statues of diorite porphyry, representing four major seas and oceans of the world. There are sculpted heads between the ground-floor windows, representing mainly explorers, navigators, cartographers and rulers of the 17th century. These may have been designed by Michel de Klerk and were executed by Hildo Krop. Under the windows of the upper floors are small figures representing the destinations of the companies residing on the respective floors. Between the ground- and first-floor windows appears, as a recurring motif, a pair of a merchant and a sailor. There are interesting sculptural elements elsewhere as well, often depicting ancient gods.
The use of metal is equally impressive in this building. This can be admired on the roof, especially around the corner tower, at some entrances and on some windows as well as in the fence running along the main facades. Different decorative elements (masonry, sculpted, metallic and wooden) are naturally intertwined and form a coherent whole.
The interior of the building just as exuberant as the exterior. The most notable space is probably the staircase, covered by an elegant stained-glass roof by William Bogtman. The main board room, designed by Theo Nieuwenhuis, has sophisticated wooden panels and stained glasses. Impressive stained-glass windows and panels and wrought-iron elements can be found in many parts of the building. The interiors of the upper-floor management offices were designed Nieuwenhuis, De Klerk and Kramer.
The office spaces of the building were extended in 1926-1928. They look more sober compared to the original style. Further extensions were planned for the 1930s, but these were not executed. Today, the building houses the Grand Hotel Amrâth.
2. Police Station on Buiksloterweg
This building – originally a police station, now a private residence – is made up of two wooden houses. It represents the rural version of the Amsterdam School (see the painted wooden boards), as fitting to its location in Amsterdam North. The white colour, as we see it today, is not original, nor is the position of the front door, which initially stood a bit further back. The two houses have high pyramid roofs and are interlocked. Between the two brick chimneys is a sophisticated intermediate part made of lead and with air ducts.
3. Amsterdams Lyceum
Herman Ambrosius Jan Baanders & Jan Baanders, 1917-1922
The Amsterdams Lyceum, founded in 1917, is the oldest lyceum in the Netherlands. It is a symmetrical brick building with rectangular volumes and passageways similar to those of the Rijksmuseum. There is some decorative masonry on the façades, and above the passageways there are high reliefs of brick with words referring to the purpose and time of construction of the building. On the side of the Valeriusplein there is a beautiful clock on the second-floor window of the western avant-corps.
The interior of the building is more or less in its original state. The most outstanding decorative elements here are the various stained-glass windows, designed by Joep Nicolas and Richard Roland Holst and produced in the studio of Willem Bogtman.
The low corner building on Valeriusplein 13 was the residence of the rector of the lyceum (designed by Jan Baanders). Although its style is more Modernist it forms a visual unit with the school building.
4. Building of the Municipal Tram Service
Pieter Lucas Marnette, 1921-1923
This building represents the flat version of the Amsterdam School instead of the more common plastic style. Features typical of the Amsterdam School include the front door with lanterns, the central flagpole, the pilasters between the windows, and the variety of shapes of the windows. The building has a C-shaped plan, which allows for a little square in front of the building. The sculptural decoration was made by Hildo Krop.
There are utilitarian spaces next to the main building. Between the main building and the porter’s lodge is the entrance gate with a very attractive wrought-iron fence.
5. Fourth Crafts School (Het Sieraad)
Arend Jan Westerman, 1921-1924
This remarkable structure originally housed the Fourth Crafts School. It is a brick building in a pentagonal shape. Its main façade has a smoothly concave outline. The sides of the façade protrude more boldly and are crowned with turrets. The upper edge of the curving façade is serrated – a feature hardly visible today because of the high trees on the square in front of the building. Horizontally, the façade is divided into two by a stone ribbon: on the lower part there are large grid windows in two rows, the upper part shows small windows with arrow-like frames in one row.
The entrances have wrought-iron decorations typical of the Amsterdam School. Those of the main entrance are particularly striking. The main entrance is flanked by reliefs by Hildo Krop, representing the subjects taught at the school. There are also other sculptural elements on the façade as well as lanterns in the style of the Amsterdam School. The façade decoration is full of symbolism.
The other façades are much more modest.
6. First Public Higher Civic School
Pieter Lodewijk Takstraat 34
Arend Jan Westerman, 1921-1924
This is one of the two schools along the Amstel Canal near the Dageraad complex. Its most notable elements are the façade sculptures and the wooden carvings above the entrance, all by Hildo Krop, and, on the inside, the wall paintings by Joop Sjollema (1929). The building and its neighbour – originally the Second Public Trade School – house the Berlage Lyceum today.
7. Jewish Bathhouse on Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat
Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 112-116
The building with a striking corner solution at the entrance to the Uilenburg island was originally a municipal bathhouse. Its personnel and clients were Jews, as this was a predominantly Jewish area. The bathhouse was open for both men and women. On the façades, in addition to the features of the Amsterdam School, one finds decorated stones from older buildings in the area as well as an œil-de-bœuf window.
8. Extension of the Third City Hall
Oudezijds Voorburgwal, 197-199
Nicolaas Lansdorp & Allard Remco Hulshoff, 1923-1926
Amsterdam has had four city halls in the history. The third one was the Prinsenhof building on Oudezijds Voorburgwal (1808-1988). That building was extended in the 1920s. The new wing was designed in the style of the Amsterdam School. Its façade on the side of the canal has a slightly convex outline and a higher corner solution. On the ground floor, between the entrances and windows, one finds pilaster-like elements with sculptural decoration (designed by Hildo Krop).
On the inside one finds beautiful works of art by Chris Lebeau, Joseph Mendes da Costa and John Rädecker.
9. Traffic Department of the Police
Pieter Lucas Marnette, 1924
The building of the traffic department of the police – now a women’s gym – has a concave brick façade with a serrated edge and two flagpoles. The horizontal grid windows on the first and second floors follow the shape of the façade. Between the two entrances was the guard’s room. The doors of the building and the guard’s room are very beautiful.
10. Public Works Department: Sewerage and Bridges
Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 57-59
This building is located next to the Uilenburg Synagogue. It originally housed the office and storage spaces of the branch of the Department of Public Works responsible for sewers and bridges, as indicated above the entrance. The building represents a restrained version of the Amsterdam School. It has long two-storey volume along the street, with two higher volumes at the northeastern end. On the façade we also find a decorative stone with the coat of arms of Portugal, taken from the previous building in the same place.
11. Municipal Lyceum for Girls
Reijnier Vinkeleskade 62
Nicolaas Lansdorp & Bernard Lubbers, 1925-1926
This is one of the many school buildings constructed in the style of the Amsterdam School. The central part of its façade is slightly reminiscent of that of a more famous school: the Sieraad Building. The sculptures at the entrance, depicting Work and Leisure, were made by Hildo Krop. On the inside, the most important feature is the wall painting by Maria Hubrecht, depicting the prehistoric ages of the Earth.
12. School Building on Jan Maijenstraat
Jan Maijenstraat 11-17
J.W. Frantzen, 1925-1928
This building, located opposite the Jerusalem Church, originally provided spaces for four schools. It is an elongated symmetrical three-story building with higher side wings. The upper part of the central wing is executed in red-gray bricks, while in the side wings one sees yellow bricks, which continue on the ground-floor level towards the main entrance. The side wings culminate in a tower-like element with a half-cylindrical end. The upper walls of the central part of the side wings curve slightly forward towards the adjacent volumes. The ends of the central wing also protrude on the first-floor level to partly cover the walls of the side wings. The horizontal emphasis of the central wing is created by long rows of windows on all the three floors. Above the main entrance is a window in the shape of an open book – probably one of the most photographed objects in Amsterdam West.
The most outstanding element on the interior is the staircase parapet with semicircular holes.
13. Olympic Stadium
Olympisch Stadion 2
Jan Wils, 1927-1928
The Olympic Stadium of Amsterdam was built for the 1928 Summer Olympics. It is made of concrete and covered with bricks, with some natural stone accents here and there. Its style is a mixture of the Amsterdam School and the horizontal architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. The features of the Amsterdam School include the masonry strips and lamps above the entrances as well as the flagpole holders. Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence is visible at the general horizontal emphasis of the stadium and in the planes floating out of the masonry at the main entrance. Here are also two natural stone reliefs designed by Jan Altdorf.
Nearby stands the Marathon Tower, 42 m high.
Near the Olympic Stadium, on Stadionplein 2, stands a small brick building with cubic volumes, a high sloping roof, a chimney and grid windows. During the Olympic Games it served as a post office. Later it was converted into the groundkeeper’s residence. In Dutch it is called the Olympiahuisje or the Portiershuisje, although its official name seems to be the Northern Service Building. A similar building stands on the south side of the stadium (Stadionplein 32). The both buildings were designed by Jan Wils. The Olympiahuisje was moved to the current location in 2002.
14. Jerusalem Church
Jan Maijenstraat 14
Ferdinand Bernardus Jantzen, 1928-1929
The Jerusalem Church was the main place of worship of the newly established Amsterdam West. It originally belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church (now to the Protestant Church in the Netherlands). It is an imposing red-brick building made up of rectangular volumes with a vertical emphasis. It has an unusual north-south orientation.
The interior of the church is cruciform. It was decorated by the architect himself. The most notable elements are the stained-glass windows, depicting various subjects such as the seven days of the Creation and the gates of Jerusalem. Remarkable, too, are the ornate chandeliers in the style of the Amsterdam School. The church has a valuable Furtwängler & Hammer organ.
Behind the church is a row of residential buildings directly attached to it.
15. Bethel Church
Vasco da Gamastraat 35
Ernst Adolf Christiaan Roest, 1928-1929
This church forms a part of a block which originally housed offices, a school, a police station and a community building. Different parts of the block were designed by different architects.
The entrance of the church has a high gable which cuts into the higher hip roof of the central space. On top of the roof is a turret in the shape that is similar to the tower of the Schip block. There are lower volumes at the corners and on the sides.
The church was originally used by the Reformed Congregations. Now it is an Evangelical church known under the name of the Maranatha Ministries.
16. Community Building of the Oostzaan Garden City (Zonnehuis)
Zonneplein 29, 30 & 30A
Johannes Mulder or Jakoba Helena Mulder, 1932
This structure, today known as the Zonnehuis, originally served as the community building of the residents of the Oostzaan Garden City. It is most probably the work of Johannes Mulder, who designed many structures in Amsterdam North in the 1920s and 1930s. Other sources, however, mention the name of Jakoba Helena Mulder as its architect.
The building has a high gabled central wing, which is flanked by lower wings. The main wing has a vertical accent, created by brick patterns, pilasters between the central windows and the ‘ladder windows’. The contrast of the brown brick and yellow window frames is very attractive.
On the rear façade there are four statues by Willem IJzerdraat and Marinus Vreugde, depicting a family. Inside the building there were two theater halls, ten meeting rooms, a library, and a kitchen.