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Hendrik Wijdeveld

04-10-1885 - 20-02-1987

Hendricus Theodorus Wijdeveld (1885-1987) considers himself as director with the world as a total theatre, a stage for his designs: he is architect, editor-in-chief, and typographer of the journal ‘Wendingen’, as well as a designer of books, theatrical stage sets and costumes, furniture and utensils.

Wijdeveld begins his career at the turn of the century in the studio of P.J.H. Cuypers and later works for the French architect L. Cordonnier. Wijdeveld designs in the tradition of the Amsterdam School, to which he adds elements from the Nieuwe Bouwen style.

Wijdeveld develops an extensive international network. With Erich Mendelsohn, he travels to the Middle East, and to the Soviet Union in 1931. During a stay in the United States, he meets Frank Lloyd Wright, and has plans to establish an international art academy in the south of France. His friendship with Mendelsohn inspires Wijdeveld to design a number of utopian and futuristic projects. The most famous example is the huge People’s Theatre in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam in the shape of an enormous vagina, the national park Amsterdam-Zandvoort, a number of enormous high-rise projects and "Plan the Impossible", an extraordinary proposal dating from 1944, involving boring a 25-kilometre deep shaft deep into the earth.

Wijdeveld is an imaginative, versatile talent: he is editor-in-chief, and typographer of the journal ‘Wendingen’, as well as a designer of books, theatrical stage sets and costumes, furniture and utensils. In Amsterdam, he also design shop window displays for the fashion department of Hirsch & Co (1925) and creates designs for the interior of the SS Nieuw Amsterdam (1937). Other projects, not all of which are realised, include the Plantage Middenlaan Theatre in Amsterdam (1921), The Theater Allebeplein Amsterdam (1927), the Palace of Nations in Geneva (1927), the stage set for The Flying Dutchman complete with an entire city that becomes subsumed by water (1930), and an exhibition pavilion for the World’s Fair in Antwerp (1930).

In 1940 Wijdeveld publishes a book entitled ‘The New Order’ in which he assumes an ambiguous attitude to the German occupation; after the war, this stance will come back to haunt him. In response, his defence runs: “All that I say, all that I speak, all that I live, is The New Order”.

In the late ‘40s, Wijdeveld goes to the United States, where he sojourns for several years, returning to the Netherlands in 1950 to resume his work. The projects of his later career add little to Wijdeveld’s rich oeuvre, and in most cases are repeats of earlier designs. The fact that he is honoured with a major retrospective in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1953, is evidence of Wijdeveld’s political rehabilitation 

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