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Blijdorp municipal housing

In the second half of 1931, J.J.P. Oud is working on the last of his pre-war municipal housing projects: a design for a total of 306 homes in the form of nine long, four-storey apartment buildings, each with three residential layers. The majority of the apartments are artisanal homes, with eighteen one-floor apartments intended for senior citizens. The design is entirely congruent with the departure points of the Nieuwe Bouwen movement, although the majority of militant architects who belonged to this school of design would probably have objected to the small private gardens on the ground floor.

The development plan is part of the expansion plan for Blijdorp designed by Witteveen in 1929, and is located to the south of the connecting canal and to the west of the new connecting road extending from the Schie in the direction of The Hague. Like Van Tijern & Van der Vlugt, who design a residential block (which was never built) in the nearby Vroeselaan, Oud also ignores the closed apartment blocks Witteveen has designated for the site. Oud proposes an alternative land division plan.

From the perspective of both urban planning and residential development, Oud’s plan marks a watershed, the nadir in research into the typology and architectonic phenomenology of the urban housing block. At the same time, his plan for Blijdorp can be read as a singular commentary on the large-scale construction programmes that were completed almost simultaneously by Van Tijen, Van den Broek, Merkelbach, Stam and Van Loghem.

In his design for Blijdorp, Oud was keen to find an acceptable compromise between the closed apartment blocks championed by Witteveen and the principle of strip building. He designs a unit that combines the street with a communal garden and which, together with the front and rear facades of the apartment blocks, creates a varied visual impression. Because, (in contrast to those of Van Tijen) his blocks were to have a west-east rather than north-south aspect, his gardens are situated on the south. And these, from both an urban design and residential perspective, embody the essence of the Blijdorp plan as the diverse, beautifully detailed perspective drawings illustrate. In his plan, Oud introduces a new typology: the apartment complex. This blueprint combines a communal staircase with individual balconies, which provides every flat with access to both the street and the garden. The living room and kitchen are oriented towards the garden. The traffic is included in the overall composition of garden and street, and every single foot of space is utilised.

Oud’s design, however, will not be built. Not only because of steep land prices and the tightening up of building stipulations, but mostly - and ironically – due to the consequences of the new division of land which Oud himself had designed. His proposal is simply too costly for the artisanal dwellings that Blijdorp needs. 

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