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J.H. Leliman

23-06-1828 - 01-12-1910

Architect J.H. Leliman (1828-1910) is first and foremost a theoretician. In comparison with his written oeuvre, his built oeuvre is less expansive and also less influential. He is an avid follower of international developments and introduces French eclecticism into Dutch architecture.

After completing his training, Leliman travels abroad on a study visit; the trip is to be decisive for his career as architect and theoretician. The architects he meets during his travels, the buildings his studies and the books he reads are instrumental in shaping his ideas on architecture, the profession of architect, and architecture education.

In Paris, he studies at the distinguished studio of Henri Labrouste, the architect who took a leading role in founding one of the most influential nineteenth-century movements around 1830. Leliman brings this design modality to the Netherlands, and propagates his ideas about it in writings, lectures, and buildings. He keeps a close eye on international currents. In the journal ‘Bouwkundige Bijdragen’ Leliman reports on developments in Europe (particularly France, Great Britain, Germany and Belgium) in the field of architectural advances, archaeological findings, competitions, exhibitions, congresses and the latest professional literature. 

Leliman formulates his thoughts on architecture during an era in which the profession of architect, architectural history and education are much-published themes. He eagerly takes part in debate, and often has the last word. His influence is far-ranging because he airs his views in new institutions: the society Architectura et Amicitia (1855) and the Maatschappij tot Bevordering der Bouwkunst (1842). Leliman and his fellow colleagues have access to all kinds of international journals, especially French, German and English publications thanks to the reading rooms and reading material available in these two institutions.

In comparison with his written oeuvre, Leliman’s built oeuvre is more modest and less influential. After winning a number of competitions, he focuses on designing houses, shops, schools and artisanal dwellings. His architectural interests include the preservation of old buildings, as well as the construction of new ones. A wealthy individual, Leliman is able to give up his architectural career early. At the age of fifty, in 1878, he winds down his practice as architectural draughtsman and refers to himself as a former architect. However, he continues to write articles, visit congresses and give lectures. In the meantime, he goes on designing houses, but without the intention of building them; for Leliman, they are purely designs that express his ideals. 

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