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Jan David Zocher

12-02-1791 - 08-07-1870

Jan David Zocher Junior (1791-1870) is one of the most important representatives of the rural style. Traces of his park designs are still in evidence. Zocher was less successful as the architect of buildings – many of his structures failed to survive changing tastes.

Zocher Jr. is the most celebrated architect in his family but certainly not the only one. His father, architect and landscape architect Johann David Zocher Sr. was born in Thurgau, Saxony. His father was also named Johann David and was a horticulturalist. Zocher Jr. is 26 when his father dies. He, and two fellow students, are asked to complete his father’s last commission, the design of Soestdijk Park.

Thanks in part to his father’s connections, at the age of 18, Zocher submits a design for a competition issued by King Louis: the Prix de Paris, which aims to give young talented architects a chance to study in Paris. Zocher wins, in conjunction with two other would-be architects. While in Paris, he also wins the Prix de Rome, a sum of money that enables him to go to Rome to study the Roman ruins. The object of this prize was that architects should have a thorough knowledge of classical architecture so that they could use this style – considered superior to any other – in an informed way in their own work.

In 1817 Zocher moves to Haarlem, so that he can manage the neglected Rozenhagen nursery he inherited from his father. During these early years of his career, apart from the part at Soestdijk, Zocher also designs the tomb annex outlook tower for Van Nellesteyn at Leersum, and a part of the canal greenery in Haarlem, and gradually expands his area of work to the entire country. Zocher does not execute all his plans himself: commissions in remote provinces like Zeeland are probably entrusted to his younger brother Karel Georg.

In 1828 the new Royal Decree demands that Akendam is turned into a cemetery so that the dead can be buried outside the built environment. Zocher submits the design for the new cemetery. By this time, he is a highly distinguished architect. He is a member of the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam and, in 1838, joins the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 1845, during the opening of the Commodity Exchange in Amsterdam, he also made a knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion.

Zocher’s ideal is to design building and landscape as a single entity. Which accounts for his inclination to work on many country estates, designing both the park and the house; one beautifies the other and they cannot be seen separately. Most of the buildings Zocher designs are neo-classical in style, in which he follows the thinking of the French academy where he was trained.

Around 1845, Zocher’s career is at its zenith, and he receives commissions throughout the country. He travels extensively through the whole of Holland for which reason it is highly unlikely that he was responsible for every design. Zocher’s son, Louis Paul, probably assumed a number of tasks for his father very early on. However, it is difficult to precisely pinpoint the start of the father and son collaboration, although we do know that, from 1850 onwards, all designs were signed ‘Zocher’ or ‘J.D. and L.P. Zocher’ instead of ‘J.D. Zocher Jr.’.

Louis Paul becomes a full member of the team in 1850. The joint signature makes it difficult to discern which man had the greatest influence in a particular design. In his later years, Zocher left most of the work to his son, although he did remain active. He was involved in the design for the Vondelpark in Amsterdam and the Zorgvlied cemetery that he designs with his son in 1864. Zocher dies on 8 July 1870 in Haarlem and is buried at ‘his’ cemetery Akendam in Haarlem, as is his son Louis Paul.

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