Wagenstraat 32

Den Haag


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Warenhuis de Bijenkorf

Designers: Piet Kramer

The architecture of the first Bijenkorf department store in Amsterdam (1912-1915) – an eclectic building with a modern concrete frame but with traditional looking façades that hark back to the Palace on Dam square – came in for heavy criticism. A more contemporary design was needed for the second store in The Hague.

When six architects were asked to design the facade, the layout of the store was in fact already in place. Initially, both the management of the Bijenkorf and the Advice Committee (with architects H.P. Berlage and J. Gratama) welcomed J.F. Staal’s design, but they then discarded it as ‘too strange’ and ‘not fitting enough for a contemporary Department and Fashion Store for The Hague’.

This building was not so much about functionalism as about a striking design that exudes luxury and that stimulates the public’s desire to buy. The building became one with no visible storeys: the façade is, as it were, suspended as an undulating curtain over the concrete frame. Kramer did not attempt to deny what was known as ‘cladding architecture’; on the contrary, he made it the linchpin of his design.

It is one of the last buildings in which the plastic shapes of the Amsterdam School are shown to perfection. The façade includes expressive decorations by Hildo Krop, T. Raedecker, H.A. van den Eijnde and others, with several symbolic references to transport, trade and the four elements.

The interior is also extraordinarily luxurious, with costly materials such as tropical wood and stained glass windows. Using stairs or escalators – the first in the Netherlands – shoppers reach one of the four storeys that are arranged as a gallery around an open hexagonal atrium. Many of the original details of the interior have since been lost.


Fred À.F.W. Westen commented approximately 10 years ago:

Hoewel het jammer is, dat het interieur van de Bijenkorf in Den Haag ten prooi is gevallen aan de moderniseringsgolf van de jaren 1950/1960, is een bezoek toch nog wel de moeite waard. De gevel en plastieken buiten zijn goed geconserveerd. Het trappenhuis is ook nog steeds een fantastische beleving met de gerestaureerde glas in lood ramen.
Als inwoner van Den Haag kan ik het zeer waarderen, dat dit meest prominente Amsterdamse School icoon niet in Amsterdam maar juist in Den Haag is te bewonderen. 

Fred Westen