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Jacob Berend Bakema

08-03-1914 - 20-02-1981

With his firm Van den Broek and Bakema, J.B. Bakema (1914-1981) profoundly influenced post-war reconstruction in the Netherlands. Van den Broek and Bakema are the most significant proponents of Modernism in the Netherlands. In the 1950s and 1960s, their firm of architects becomes one of the largest and most productive firms in the Netherlands.

Jacob Berend Bakema is born on 8 March 1914 in Groningen. His father works on the inland waterways, delivers bread and is a typographer; his mother comes from farming stock. After primary school, Jaap Bakema attends schools for preparatory and advanced vocational education. 

Planning to emigrate to Australia, Bakema decides to study highway and hydraulic engineering in Groningen in 1930. During his studies, he meets Silina van Borssum Waalkes, whom he marries in 1939. Bakema’s interest in architecture is stimulated by Silina’s family and, in addition to his highway and hydraulic engineering degree, he also earns his diploma in architecture in 1935.

After his studies in Amsterdam and Delft he works for the Department of Public Works in Amsterdam. After the Second World War he joins the firm Van Tijen and Maaskant in Rotterdam. After the second world war, he also works for the Housing Department in Rotterdam for some time. In 1948 J.H. van den Broek invites him to become co-director of the firm Brinkman & Van den Broek Architecten. In 1951 the company changes its name to Architectenbureau Van den Broek & Bakema.

The firm plays a key role in shaping the architecture of the reconstruction era, with iconic designs including the Lijnbaan in Rotterdam, the Faculty of Architecture at Delft University of Technology, the Central Library in Rotterdam and the arrivals hall of the Holland America Line in Rotterdam. Van den Broek and Bakema are the most renowned champions of Modernism in the Netherlands. In the 1950s and 1960s, their architectural office becomes one of the largest and most prolific in the Netherlands with hundreds of employees. Bakema is company director in addition to which he is secretary of the CIAM and Team 10, lecturer and editor of the journal Forum. Jaap Bakema dies in 1981.

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