Hendricus Petrus Berlage

21-02-1856 - 12-08-1934

H.P. Berlage originally completes his training in the fine arts but becomes an architect and urban planner. His Commodity Exchange (Koopmansbeurs) is generally considered to mark the advent of modern architecture in the Netherlands. His designs are based on the idea of the total work of art, a synthesis of the arts.

Berlage begins his professional training as an artist, but finally chooses a career as an architect. In 1878, he graduates from the Polytechnikum in Zurich. After travelling abroad, and working as a supervisor in Frankfurt, he takes a job with Theo Sanders in Amsterdam where, in due course, he becomes a partner. It is during this time that Berlage works in a historicising, eclectic style. After breaking with Sanders, he moves away from both the practice and theory of that eclecticism in search of a new form of architecture.

His changing views are eloquently expressed in his submissions for the competition to build a new stock exchange in Amsterdam. His first proposal, submitted together with Sanders, is still of an historicising nature. The design he presents as an independent architect is far more streamlined. Wishing to leave eclecticism behind him once and for all, Berlage turns to the Romanesque style for the Commodity Exchange, without following it blindly. The result is a restrained yet monumental building that is designed as a whole. The Commodity Exchange on the Damrak becomes a landmark building, establishing Berlage as an architect of national and international repute.

Besides being an influential architect, Berlage is also a key figure in urban planning. In his designs, he attempts to design the city as a whole, rather than concentrating on individual streets and squares. He considers construction complexes a condition of contemporary urban design. His concepts for urban planning are best expressed in his plan for Amsterdam South, where he was able to put his ideas into practice.

Berlage is awarded numerous honorary degrees; unfortunately, he is unable to see his last masterpiece, the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, come to fruition.


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