Viewport has had a couple of encounters this year with Northern European twentieth century brick buildings: from the Chile Haus in Hamburg to Grundtvig’s Church in Copenhagen, Clearly we needed one more before the year is out and this time a housing estate in Amsterdam. The De Dageraad housing estate from the early 1920s was created at the peak of the Amsterdam School’s output, which had started a decade earlier with the Scheepvarthuis, a building for a cooperative of shipping companies and now a hotel. The Amsterdam School is part of the wider movement of Brick Expressionism and its two leading exponents were Piet Kramer and Michel de Klerk who were brought in to design this large project for the socialist housing association De Dageraad.
The estate was a significant step up for its inhabitants providing them with decently sized three and four roomed flats, and extravagantly designed brick exteriors. The conviction of the architects (de Klerk himself was from a working class background) was that workers should not be required to live in identical anonymous units. The typical elements of the School are in evidence here: unusually shaped white painted sash windows are flush with the wall plane, sweeping forms created with the undersized local bricks alongside towers and turrets and curves and bulges. Unfortunately de Klerk died not long after the completion of this project. Kramer went on to build his best work in the Hague – De Bijenkorf Store – but conventional architecture work started to dry up for him during the more rational and economically severe 1930s. During the latter half of his career he went on to design bridges for the canals of Amsterdam of which 220 were built. When he died in the 1961, interest in his work was non existent and all his drawings and models ended up burnt. Today however this housing estate remains in tip top condition and remains a very sought after place to live – a testament to the architecture but also the current maintenance work of the housing association.