Johannes Duiker

01-03-1890 - 23-02-1935

Jan Duiker was one of the foremost representatives of the Nieuwe Bouwen style, the Dutch branch of the International School of Modernism. He was responsible for two icons that emerged from the movement: Sanatorium Zonnestraal in Hilversum (1926-1928) and the Openluchtschool in Amsterdam (1927-1930), an open-air school. However, his career came to an abrupt end as Duiker died at the early age of 44.

Although he had originally wanted to go to the academy of music to train as a concert pianist, in 1908 he decided to study architecture at the Technical College in Delft, where he met Bernard Bijvoet. Both graduated in 1913 and started work together at the firm of Henri Evers, where they assisted in the construction of Evers' new Rotterdam town hall.

Duiker and Bijvoet established their own firm in The Hague in 1916. Two years later they won a competition for a new building for the Rijksacademie voor Beeldende Kunsten college of art in Amsterdam. The highly symmetrical layout of the design, with its striking horizontal and vertical lines and large wall surfaces clearly reflect the influence of Berlage and American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. This constitutes a clear break with Evers' traditionalism.

The first stone was laid in 1920, but further construction work petered out and in 1921 the government announced that it was backtracking on its assignment. Duikers' and Bijvoet's new firm probably did not yet have sufficient experience for this enormous assignment. What they did gain with this competition, though, was name recognition.

Berlage, who was on the jury for the Rijksacademie competition, introduced Duiker and Bijvoet to the Algemeene Nederlandsche Diamantbewerkersbond (ANDB), the diamond workers union, in connection with the assignment for a follow-up care colony for tuberculosis patients in Hilversum. The first designs were produced in 1920, but due to a crisis in the diamond trade, the assignment did not go through and it was not until the mid-1920s that it was taken up again.

The earliest designs for "Zonnestraal" were heavily influenced by the work of Lloyd Wright and Berlage, just like their other designs in this period, especially in The Hague. The formal vocabulary of the houses in Kijkduin residential district (1919-1923) refers to Lloyd Wright's Prairie Houses: small walls and terraces with large horizontal overhangs connecting the inside and outside, and striking chimneys creating vertical accents.

In 1919, Duiker and Bijvoet set up a new architectural firm in Zandvoort that was to continue until 1925. With the assignment for the Rijksacademie having come to nothing, the financial prospects were not looking too good. Duiker left for Amsterdam and Bijvoet set up shop in Paris. This was, effectively, the end of the architectural firm of Duiker and Bijvoet, although they did continue to provide each other with advice.

Once the crisis in the diamond trade was over, the design for Zonnestraal (1926-1932) was taken up again and revised according to the latest notions of the Nieuwe Bouwen movement. As in previous designs, Duiker called in civil engineer Jan Gerko Wiebenga for the complex concrete calculations for "Zonnestraal", on account of the latter's great knowledge of concrete technology. "Zonnestraal" is regarded as the climax of this period. The structure of this complex is formed by the exposed concrete frame. The floor plans can be arranged at will. The facades, consisting of white stucco and sky-blue, slender steel casings, no longer performed a load-bearing function.

Aspiring towards a healthy environment in schools was a pursuit that matched that of the pursuit of light and air in architecture, the creed of the Nieuwe Bouwen movement. The open-air schools that were very popular during this period are an extension of this. Duiker designed one such school in Amsterdam, with a concrete frame and a glass facade in narrow steel casings. The result was maximum openness and transparency.

Until he designed the Cineac (1933-1934) in Amsterdam, Duiker used concrete structures in his buildings from 1924 on, but that changed in 1933. Because he used the existing foundations for the Cineac at Regulierbreestraat in Amsterdam, the structure had to be as light as possible. Besides, the price of steel was, at that point, considerably lower than that of concrete and because of the acoustics and the climate, the design of the cinema had to have steel walls.

This was the first time that Duiker used a steel frame, a structure that, for that matter, fitted in seamlessly with his opinions on functionalist building. The designs for Magazijn Winter (1934-1935) and the theatre and hotel complex Gooiland (1935-1936) also had steel frames. Duiker died of throat cancer in 1935 and Bijvoet returned from Paris to complete the Gooiland hotel.


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