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Alexander Bodon

06-09-1906 - 22-01-1993

After meeting Jan Wils, Alexander Bodon remained loyal to Het Nieuwe Bouwen (Modern Architecture) for the rest of his life. He is famous for the department stores he designed for C&A, but most of all for designing the RAI exhibition centre in Amsterdam.

Alexander Bodon was a Hungarian who was born in Vienna. After the First World War, he was one of the many children from impoverished Central Europe who were given the chance to spend some time with foster families in the Netherlands, a country unaffected by the war. Through his foster family he was introduced to architect Jan Wils.

After returning home, he studied architecture in Budapest. But his introduction to Wils left such a deep impression that he arranged an internship with Wils in 1926 and after completing his studies, he moved to the Netherlands for good. In 1932, Bodon joined the architects’ association “The 8” and remained a fervent disciple of Het Nieuwe Bouwen for the rest of his life.

He started his career as a draughtsman at Merkelbach and Karsten, where he was involved in the construction of the studio of the AVRO broadcasting association in Hilversum. He also took part in the 1936-37 competition for the design of the new Amsterdam City Hall. In 1939 he set up his own architectural firm. In the first few years, his firm’s main line of business was designing exhibitions. During the war, he also developed ideas on the future of housing as part of a working group for the “architectural implementation of post-war housing”, but apart from a few minor projects, Bodon never returned to this field after the war. Instead, he was increasingly contracted by companies and government bodies to build factories, shops and offices. Department store chain C&A, for example, was one of Bodon’s regular clients for many years.

But the work for which Bodon is best known is his design of the RAI exhibition buildings in Amsterdam. Bodon stayed involved with the RAI from its initial design in 1951 through to all the extensions and renovations in the 1980s. In 1954, Bodon joined the Rotterdam firm of Van Bruggen, Sterkenburg and Drexhage. From 1974 onwards, the firm operated under the name DSBV (Drexhage, Sterkenburg, Bodon and Venstra). Bodon left DSBV to work as an independent architect for a few years.

Bodon has played an important role in Dutch architecture: as an architect, teacher, member of aesthetics committees and as a jury member. In 1986, he received an appropriate farewell tribute with an exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam: “A. Bodon: a Selection of his Work. Architecture 1926-1986”.

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