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SPECIAL – Iconic Dreams - Sleep in an Iconic House!
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Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - Het Schip
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Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - Van Eesteren House Museum
A Special House in an Ordinary Neighbourhood
Far from the centre of Amsterdam with its seventeenth century canals, in the middle of the typical post-war Amsterdam suburb of Slotermeer, you find a special house from 1952: the Van Eesteren House Museum. The atmosphere of the 1950s is completely restored in the house: multifunctional and sleek furniture, new hygienic materials, but also heating with a coal stove, telephone with 'a large bakelite case' and cooking in a Bruynzeel kitchen, which was ultra-modern for that time.
Text | Jorn Konijn
Van Eesteren Museum
The museum house is part of the Van Eesteren Museum that has been housed in a new building since 2017 pavilion on the Sloterplas about a ten-minute walk away of the house museum. The museum tells a broad and topical story about urban planning from the perspective of the history of urban expansion and urban planning Cornelis van Eesteren (1897-1988). Cornelis van Eesteren was a member of the movement 'De Stijl' with colleagues such as Piet Mondrian, Wim Rietveld, Theo van Doesburg and J.J.P. Old. Inspired by the modernists Tony Garnier, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius developed it in 1935 the General Extension Plan (AUP) that specifies the housing needs of the population until the year 2000.
The museum is in Amsterdam New-West, the largest post-war expansion area of Amsterdam. New West was part of it of the AUP. The plan had to prepare Amsterdam for growth to one million inhabitants. Urban planners Cornelis van Eesteren and Jakoba Mulder (1900-1988) were at the basis of the plan, in which 'light, air and space' was the motto. The residential complex, in which the house museum is situated, was designed by Nielsen, Spruit & Van de Kuilen Architects.
Nowadays, the New-West district is constantly in transition. In the 1990s, the district was taken over by the national media referred to as 'the worst neighbourhood in the Netherlands', a reputation it in recent years was able to shake off. Although the district in liveability still lags, New-West is now developing at high speed through renovation, transformation, or new construction. And since the rental and purchase prices in the centrally located districts are virtually unaffordable, many people in Amsterdam move to this part of the city, just like the new residents of the capital. New West is one of them few places where you can still live affordably. It is the largest and youngest district of the municipality with 145,000 inhabitants (as many as the city of Amersfoort) where 70% of the residents have a migration background.
|No more floral curtains and the rugs on the table disappeared|
The Van Eesteren Museum was founded in 2010 as an outdoor museum with a varied program of activities and events. At the end of 2017, the Van Eesteren Museum moved to a new pavilion on the Sloterplas. This location was already designated by Cornelis van Eesteren in 1939 as a space for a possible pavilion; with the creation of the pavilion his idea became reality. Already in 2012, the museum got access to a house museum that was furnished according to the principles of the Good Living Foundation (Stichting Goed Wonen) from the 50s of the twentieth century. In those years a new movement Stichting Goed Wonen emerged, committed to and promoting a new and modern way of living. No dark and heavy oak and upholstered furniture, but lightly constructed functional designs, based on the ideas of ergonomics for the housewife. No more floral curtains and the rugs on the table disappeared. 'Light, air and space' came in the place for it. Idealistic architects, designers and manufacturers pursued a home furnishing after the Second World War in which every family member could develop optimally. Well-known manufacturers from that time, such as Bruynzeel, Auping, Gispen, Spectrum, De Ploeg, Fris Edam and Gero got the so-called 'Good Housing quality mark'. The foundation started from the thought that the social ideal of a new society could be reached through good design and architecture: 'good taste is a matter of upbringing'. Although in practice that belief not always worked, the philosophy of Good Living resulted in a lot of design classics.
The interior of the house museum is decorated according to the philosophy of Good Living. All furniture in it interior – from Tomado bookshelves to the colourful crockery – were donated to the museum by residents. Visitors can touch everything, look everywhere, and feel what it was like to live in a house in which people learned to live according to the ideas of functionalism and the modern household in 1952, when the house was built became. Based on several of those classics in the home the principles of the Good Living Foundation can be seen, for example in the efficiently thought-out floor plan, the extendable cutting board, the functional cupboard layout, the pans that could also serve as a cover dish and the sofa that folds out into a sofa bed. The Van Eesteren Museum House in Slotermeer is in October 2012, exactly 60 years after the emergence of the district, for the open to the public. Together with housing corporation De Alliantie the house has been returned to its original state.
House Museum As Test Lab
The house museum is an important part of the Van Eesteren Museum. In order not to freeze the house in time, the museum started a new program this year in which the house museum is used as a test lab. Three times a year a designer, architect, or curator is given the chance to make an installation in the home. Through the confrontation with a current design the contemporary design world is becoming the house museum.
Activating the house museum always focuses on one element from the house. This element is created by a designer, architect or curator analysed, interpreted, and translated to the present through an intervention. In 2023, the museum will focus on three elements from the house: the bookcase, the textiles, the board games, and the toys. The free exhibition in the pavilion talks about Van Eesteren and the way in which he presented his vision on the urban development in Amsterdam New-West. The Van Eesteren Museum also offers a guided walk in the neighbourhood. The Van Eesteren House Museum is a member of Iconic Houses and can be visited by appointment. www.iconichouses.org
|Light, air and space were the motto|
About the Author
Jorn Konijn has been director of the Van Eesteren Museum since June 2022. He worked as a chief programmer at the Dutch Design Week, as a curator at EYE Film Museum and Dutch Architecture Institute and gained administrative experience at the Council for Culture and Brabant C Culture Fund. His arrival ad director coincides with the start of the event about 20 years of urban innovation in New-West, entitled 'SuperWest'.
This article previously appeared in Dutch Magazine Herenhuis #93, January/February 2023. Photos: Van Eesteren House Museum exterior, photo: Monique van Dongen. Urban planners Jakoba Mulder and Cornelis van Eesteren in 1958. Image Van Eesteren Museum. All interior images: Van Eesteren Museum.
Pioneers of the Dutch Modern House
For those who are curious about more stories about the developments in Dutch residential architecture in the twentieth century, Iconic Houses has made a video in which five specialists discussing the following topics:
- Hygiene and Health in the Modern Home by Hetty Berens, Curator of the Sonneveld House.
- Palaces for the People by Valentijn Carbo, Architectural Historian at Hendrick de Keyser Monuments.
- A Woman’s Place: Clients & Architects, by Natalie Dubois, Curator of Design at the Centraal Museum Utrecht.
- Experiments with Space by Robert von der Nahmer, resident of the Diagoon House.
- Home as a Self-Portrait: Architect ‘s Houses by Natascha Drabbe, Architectural Historian and owner of the Van Schijndel House.
The 1 hour video can be streamed via the webshop.
Publication date 12 February 2023