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Piet Kramer

01-07-1881 - 04-02-1961

Piet Kramer (1881-1961) is one of the architects of the Amsterdam School. He builds a large number of bridges for the government, but his claim to fame is the expressionist-style apartment complex he designed with Michel de Klerk for housing association De Dageraad in Amsterdam south.

The son of a doctor, Piet Kramer is born in Amsterdam. After completing his training as architectural draughtsman at the Industrieschool in Amsterdam, he begins his career as a carpenter in a boat-builder’s yard. In 1902 he joins the office of Ed. Cuypers, where he will meet De Klerk and Van der Mey. In 1911 Van der Mey appoints Kramer his assistant advisor at the Public Works Department in Amsterdam. Six years later, Kramer is aesthetic adviser to the bridge division, and holds this post until his retirement in 1952.

Kramer produces some 500 designs, roughly 200 of which will be realised. In the early days of his career, his bridges are decorated with sculptural elements and decorative metalwork, and many come complete with bridge-masters’ houses, lanterns and kiosks. However, the richly embellished structures prove far too expensive for the local council in the 1930s, a period of economic retrenchment, and Kramer is compelled to pare down his ornamentation. One of his most appealing bridges is a bridge over the Amstel canal known as bridge number 400, close to Amsterdam’s Amsteldijk (1917-1921). Like many other bridges Kramer designed, the sculptural decorations are by sculptor Hildo Krop (1884-1970).

Meanwhile, Kramer also undertakes independent commissions and was involved in the construction of the Scheepvaarthuis on the Prins Hendrikkade in Amsterdam (1912-1916), which was awarded to J.M. van der Mey. For the Bouwmaatschappij of Amsterdam, he designs the housing complex with shops on the Van der Helstplein in Amsterdam (1916-1920). However, his reputation rests on the expressionist-style apartment complex he designed with Michel de Klerk for housing association De Dageraad in Amsterdam south (1919-1923).

Kramer is also famous for his design for the department store De Bijenkorf (1924-1926) in The Hague Haag. The project was first awarded to his friend De Klerk but, due to his untimely death in 1923, the department store decides to hold a competition. Kramer’s design stands out head and shoulders above the rest – his invests the building with grace and monumentality. The branch of De Bijenkorf in The Hague is viewed as the last example of the undulating lines of the architecture of the Amsterdam School. Kramer dies in 1961. 

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