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First municipal housing development

Client: Gemeente Hilversum

Designers: Willem Marinus Dudok

Tempted by the opportunity of designing a new town hall, on 7 January 1915 Dudok applies for the post of Director of Public Works in the municipality of Hilversum. Extremely impressed by Dudok’s youthful ebullience, the commission and alderman of Public Works offer him the post. And, equally excited by the haphazard and chaotic layout of the city, Dudok sees huge potential for testing his talents to the full. Dudok was to remain Director of Public Works between 1915 and 1928, after which he became municipal architect, a function he held until his retirement in 1954. 

Although building work was sharply on the decline, also in Hilversum, Dudok had sufficient projects to occupy him. He was responsible for the trams, telephony, electricity, the gas and water supply, the municipal maintenance, sewerage and the fire service. His duties also extended to the laying and maintaining of streets, roads, public gardens, public baths, bridges, cemeteries, parks, football pitches and market squares, and the design and maintenance of apartment complexes. He also built a new town hall. Present-day Hilversum owes much of its city planning and design to Dudok, and is one of the only Dutch cities where a single architect was given carte blanche.

Dudok’s first important task was to devise an expansion plan for the municipality necessitated by the population boom of the nineteenth century. This growth was partly facilitated by the creation of the Amsterdam-Amersfoort railway link in 1874. Dudok wanted to rein in the city’s unbridled growth, unwilling for it to smother the surrounding rural area of Het Gooi. In 1933, this materialised in an expansion plan that also brought an end to future growth by giving the city definitive boundaries.

In the end, Dudok designed 24 residential projects for Hilversum which, although many had been designed earlier for the plan of 1933, still fitted within his grand design. Dudok not only strove to design remarkable housing, but also designed harmonious neighbourhoods where he hoped inhabitants would feel at home. The uniformity he achieved in the various districts is partly thanks to the unique opportunity Dudok was presented with – that of designing both the street plan, and the dwellings. His ambition was to design pleasant, affordable homes that offered a practical layout, met the required hygiene standards and were aesthetically pleasing. He was a firm believer in the power of architecture to enrich the mind and spirit of hardworking artisans.

However, as the years progressed, he was forced to simplify his design of the apartment blocks due to time and financial constraints.


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