Nieuwe Bouwen is a functionalist architecture that emerged in the early 20th century and peaked between the two world wars. Rather than aiming toward monumentalism, its architects focused on a building’s function and the needs of its users. They used modern techniques and materials such as concrete and steel frames to design efficient, hygienic buildings. Functional floor plans and an open, flexible layout contrasted with the traditional closed volumes and gave the buildings an open, airy feel. Nieuwe Bouwen sought to create a healthy living environment full of fresh air and sunlight.
The Sonneveld House Museum manifests not only the principles of Nieuwe Bouwen but also the five criteria formulated by Le Corbusier in 1921 in Towards a New Architecture. Balconies and roof terraces create a transition between indoors and out-, and the floor plan is free of load-bearing interior walls, as are the exterior walls, which serve as a sort of curtain. Le Corbusier also favoured horizontal windows, preferably spanning the length of the building, and propagated the idea of “elevated living”, a principle that suited the Sonneveld House, since the family wanted an integral garage. The main living spaces were located on the first and second storeys.
Brinkman and Van der Vlugt
The Brinkman and Van der Vlugt architectural office, one of the most important and successful in the Netherlands between the wars, was the primary exponent of Nieuwe Bouwen. Johannes Brinkman handled the technical aspects and left the design largely to Leendert van der Vlugt. In the early days, the firm’s main client was the coffee, tea and tobacco company Van Nelle. Brinkman and Van der Vlugt designed its iconic factory building in Rotterdam as well as sites in Leiden and Utrecht. They also designed homes for the company’s directors, including the Van der Leeuw and Sonneveld houses.