From a patchwork of paving to a green oasis. The campus square at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam) is currently undergoing a metamorphosis, which is set to make it the heart of the campus once again. ‘We were assigned the job of making the square more attractive. That’s not too difficult.’
Exactly 50 years ago, on 12 April 1973, the VU Main Building opened its doors at De Boelelaan 1105. With a floor area of around nine hectares, it was one of Amsterdam’s largest and tallest buildings. There was not yet a trace of Zuidas to be seen.
The stunning new courthouse building is home to an extensive art collection that is also accessible to the public. It serves a very special purpose. ‘The art has a comforting effect in a place where very serious things happen.’
On 10 and 11 September 2022, thousands of monuments across the Netherlands will be opening their doors on Open Monuments Day (Open Monumentendag). In Zuidas, you can visit the monumental courthouse, the Burgerweeshuis (a former orphanage) or the Thomaskerk Church. The Zuidas Botanical Garden is also participating.
It started with a factory in Zevenaar, where art was introduced to prevent ‘a girl having to continually endure the same view’, followed by an office building in what is now Zuidas, that aimed to ‘offer a meaningful environment for people to work in’. That’s the history of the Turmac building, now a municipal monument.
‘No solution to gross profiteering’ rang the headline in the 'Het Vrije Volk' newspaper in 1963. Below, it read: ‘Apartment worth 50,000 guilders on the market for 150,000’. The report will certainly not have been the best of news for the man who had an office just above the garages next to the apartment complex.
In 1943, a ‘quite difficult boy’ was expelled from the Ignatiuscollege Catholic school for insulting a teacher. That very same boy would ultimately go on to build an alternative for that school: the Sint-Nicolaaslyceum. Two monumental buildings in Zuidas bear testament to these past events.
The Warnersblokken apartments will be familiar to anyone who cycles through the Prinses Irenebuurt. They are the four eye-catching and colourful housing blocks at the end of Fred. Roeskestraat. In order to properly understand this national monument, we need to look to another neighbourhood of Amsterdam, Slotermeer.
It seems that Aldo van Eyck was ahead of his time when he designed Tripolis. Initially, in 1994, his light, open spaces were not particularly popular. These days, they are exactly what companies are looking for, and so this protected monument is getting a second lease of life.
From the 17th century, a ‘relatively close-knit, Catholic population’ clustered together on the southern side of a predominantly Protestant Amsterdam. The monumental grave of the Wiegman-Dobbelman family, at the Buitenveldert Roman Catholic Cemetery, bears testament to that.
‘A beautifully rhythmical concrete skeleton, with no further cladding other than that desirable for effective maintenance and comfortable use.’ That was the vision behind Gerrit Rietveld's design for the Academy that bears his name. Thanks to his work, the building was granted monumental status. And became an ongoing issue.
‘If ever any building was designed with care and attention to every detail, this is it.’ The words of the architect Herman Hertzberger, writing about the creation of his colleague Aldo van Eyck. Built as a children’s home in the 1960s, the Burgerweeshuis only just managed to evade demolition.