Heritage of the Week | Progressive lives in Sloterhof

On 13 May 2016, about 6 years ago, the Sloterhof complex, located in the Slotervaart district of Amsterdam Nieuw-West, was designated a national monument. Sloterhof was designed and built in the period 1955-1959. The buildings, designed by architect JF Berghoef (1903-1994), are a typical example of new construction in the Netherlands. The whole complex is located between Comeniusstraat and Cornelis Lelylaan.

Comeniusstraat 1-129 and higher, Sloterhof complex, August 1959. | Photo: Amsterdam City Archives image bank (5293FO006938).

Audience

Above you can see part of the Sloterhof complex. This is Comeniusstraat 1-129, and the photo was taken shortly after completion. Architects and urban planners believed that these homes would be particularly suitable for people with a high socio-economic status, such as couples, perhaps the elderly, without children or with adult children, and single people. People who want to exchange their spacious home for a small modern apartment, with all the comfort you could wish for as a resident.

The petrol stations also belong to the nationally protected Sloterhof complex.  † Photo: JM Arsath Ro'is, Amsterdam City Archives image bank (010122039019).The petrol stations also belong to the nationally protected Sloterhof complex. † Photo: JM Arsath Ro’is, Amsterdam City Archives image bank (010122039019).

The New Building

The New Building is a worldwide architectural style that emerged after World War I. The architects behind this architectural movement realized that world population growth would lead to problems in industrialization, housing, and urban planning. The architects of the Nieuwe Bouwen, or the modernists, saw it as their task to solve social problems through architecture. Architect Berghoef believed that architecture occupied a central position in society. According to Berghoef, architecture had an impact on the social, cultural and economic level of society. This meant that national and regional building traditions had to be continued so as not to alienate people from their surroundings. Despite the poor economic conditions after World War II, he tried to design buildings that evoked a comfortable atmosphere in people. This will lead to an improvement in the well-being and prosperity of the residents.

The picture below shows part of the urban development situation for the Sloterhof complex and the surrounding area. The multi-storey properties are monumental in the area. It becomes clear that the neighborhood is spacious with wide roads, green areas and spaces between the various multi-storey properties. In addition, the architects from Nieuwe Bouwen have designed a better and more efficient floor plan of the house. With all these interventions, an attempt was made to create a comfortable and livable living environment for the residents.

The district is spacious with wide roads, green areas and spaces between the various buildings.  † Photo: June 8, 1960, Amsterdam City Archives image bank (10009A000886).The district is spacious with wide roads, green areas and spaces between the various buildings. † Photo: June 8, 1960, Amsterdam City Archives image bank (10009A000886).

System structure

The Sloterhof complex was built with the Airey building system from England. This building system made it possible to assemble prefabricated houses quickly. After World War II, this system was used in the Netherlands to solve the housing shortage with small, simple and cheap houses. Sloterhof is the first high-rise building where this Airey system has been used. The picture below shows the entrance to the Sloterhof tower on Hemsterhuisstraat. The close-up shows 3 prefabricated floors built of concrete blocks with small square windows and balconies. Striking is the entrance, which protrudes horizontally in contrast to the vertical construction of the apartment. Next to the main entrance is a sgraffito by Jan Goeting (1918-1984). This mural is built of round and organic shapes and stands in contrast to the straight lines and corners of the building. The design of the building has several contrasts in the shape, which makes it an interesting and successful building from an architectural point of view. For example, the ‘filling’ of dark gray concrete prefabricated blocks contrasts with the white frame.

Entrance to the Sloterhof tower, Hemsterhuisstraat 147 to 241 with sgraffito by Jan Goeting (October 26, 1960).  † Photo: JM Arsath Ro'is, Amsterdam City Archives image bank (010122039132).Entrance to the Sloterhof tower, Hemsterhuisstraat 147 to 241 with sgraffito by Jan Goeting (October 26, 1960). † Photo: JM Arsath Ro’is, Amsterdam City Archives image bank (010122039132).

Current situation

Since its construction, the population composition of the neighborhood has changed significantly. The inhabitants of the higher socio-economic class have long since moved. ‘Ordinary’ citizens have settled in the complex. Sloterhof symbolizes the belief in progress in the Netherlands after World War II. Because Sloterhof is a national monument, the complex will be preserved for later generations. Then take a bike ride to Nieuw-West to see this special complex!

Sloterhof in 2009. |  Photo: Han van Gool, Monuments and Archeology.Sloterhof in 2009. | Photo: Han van Gool, Monuments and Archeology.

Heritage of the Week

Each week, the Heritage of the Week section focuses on a particular archaeological find, site, object, monumental building or historic site in the city. Via the website amsterdam.nl/erfgoed, Twitter @ arv020 and Facebook Monuments and Archeology, the cultural heritage experts in Monuments and Archeology share the city’s heritage with Amsterdammere and other interested parties.

This Week’s Heritage was created in connection with the course ‘Repair and imitation. About the building heritage of modern Amsterdam‘from the bachelor’s degree in architectural history at the University of Amsterdam and is written by student Anna Louwerse.

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