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Piet Zanstra

07-08-1905 - 23-05-2003

Piet Zanstra was a moderate functionalist with a versatile body of work to his name: from the sober complex of studio houses in Amsterdam (1934), for which he was highly commended, to the much maligned, and since demolished, Maupoleum (1971).

Piet Zanstra was born on 7 August 1905 in Leeuwarden. After studying hydraulics (MTS Waterbouw) in Leeuwarden, he started work as an assistant to architect Dick Greiner. Later, he worked with W.M. Dudok on the de Bijenkorf department store in Rotterdam and with J.P. Kloos on the interiors of the Collège Néerlandais, the Dutch School in Paris.

Zanstra set up a design agency in 1932 with Jan H.L. Giesen (1903-1980) and K.L. Sijmons (1908-1989) and with them he built a complex of studio houses at Zomerdijkstraat in Amsterdam. This complex is known as an early example of the Nieuwe Bouwen movement in the Netherlands.

Zanstra, Giesen and Sijmons belonged to the architects society Groep '32 that propounded a moderate form of functionalism. Groep '32 regarded Le Corbusier, in particular, as a shining example and distanced themselves more and more from the austere Nieuwe Zakelijkheid, or New Objectivity, movement. Differences of opinion mainly concerned the relationship between art and architecture and the use of embellishments, about which Zanstra says: "For the old generation of functionalists, architecture was a matter of designing pure structures for pure functions. We thought that the beauty of the design was also important."

The cooperation between Zanstra, Giesen and Sijmons came to an end in 1954, and each started his own firm. Zanstra built various apartment blocks and churches in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. Well-known projects in Amsterdam are the flats at Burg. Hogguerstraat, Slotervaart and De Ark. In 1960, he received the H.P. Berlage prize for residential housing.

In the mid-1960s, Zanstra entered into a new association with architects De Clerq Zubli and Gmelich Meyling. It was during this period that Europarking multistorey car park at Marnixstraat in Amsterdam came about, with its famous helical spiral-shaped access ramps. Zanstra’s name is especially linked to the maligned Burgemeester Tellegenhuis house at Jodenbreestraat in Amsterdam - better known as the "Maupoleum" from 1971 (demolished in 1997). In 1975, the firm continued under the name ZZOP (ZZ+P from 1991). Piet Zanstra retired from architecture in 1980 and started painting. He died in Amsterdam on 23 May 2003.

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