Jacob (Jack) London


Little is known about architect Jacob (Jack) London. Frequently employing a historicising style, he worked for affluent clients in and around Haarlem and Hilversum, but he also cooperated with Frederik van Eeden, a writer and socialist, on sweeping designs for a utopian ‘City of Light’.

Jacob (Jack) London was born in Haarlem in 1872 and was educated in Vienna and Haarlem. London’s earliest known works are residential and retail buildings in Haarlem, buildings designed in a historicising style, bringing late-medieval city houses to mind and displaying style elements from the Gothic and Renaissance periods.

From about 1905, most of London’s work consisted of country houses and villas in the vicinity of Haarlem and Aerdenhout. By then, the ‘Gothic’ aspects of his work had disappeared entirely, in favour of Renaissance and, in particular, Baroque details. As such, with its clear penchant for the eighteenth century, London’s work fits into the central and northern European country house architecture of the period. With their straightforward, somewhat self-contained character and their round corner turrets, some of the villas near Aerdenhout look like castles.

London probably settled in Hilversum around 1915 and worked mainly in and around there from then on. In 1915, he entered a competition for a servicemen’s hostel in Hilversum, but did not win. He also designed his own house, ‘Middlesex’, at Soestdijkerstraatweg 110 (1921-1928). With its simple angular building volumes and flat roofs, it is a clear departure from his early work.

Commissioned by building association ‘Goed Wonen’ in 1919, London drafted plans for 60 homes in the area surrounding the Hilvertsweg road in Hilversum, which, though tendered, were never realised. A remarkable design, also not carried out, was that for an oriental-style “city of light”, drafted in 1918 for Frederik van Eeden, a friend of London’s. It was a far-ranging, symmetrical design for a city with a temple in the centre. Van Eeden published a book about this plan in 1920, in which he compared this design to similar ones by Berlage, for example. It is now known whether London agreed with Van Eeden’s socialist ideas.

There are no known publications or statements relating to architecture by London. Although several buildings he designed were referred to and depicted in the Architectura journal, he was not included in the list of members of the Genootschap Architectura et Amicitia society. London died in Hilversum in 1953.


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