Since January 24, Het Niewe Instituut has been host to the third instalment of Surprising finds from the collection, a series of exhibitions showcasing the richness and potential of the Institute’s archive. In this occasion, the main theme portrayed in the drawings, photographs, models and various objects selected by curator Alfred Marks is the popularity of brickwork as a building material in The Netherlands during the inter-war period. In contrast to the general idea that, with Nieuwe Bouwen, glass and concrete were the main building materials, The Netherlands builds in brick proves that, despite the Bauhaus’ influence on contemporary architecture, brick was still an important feature in Dutch architecture, both in traditional-style and experimental buildings, developing alongside modernism.
Open until April 6, 2015, the exhibition features photographs and drawings of buildings and urban environments, but also showcases an interesting series of objects from the archive as a means to portray the presence of the brick industry in the Netherlands during those years: the brick wall relief made by Henry Moore for the Bouwcentrum in Rotterdam, an unique piece of sculptural work, along with an interesting collection of toy-sized bricks, as an alternative to traditional wooden building blocks.
The exhibition was commisioned by the Het Nieuwe Instituut and curated by dutch archivist Alfred Marks. Studio Makkink&Bey, artist Leon de Bruijne, designer Govert Flint and spatial designer Harm Rensink are responsible for the exhibition design, allowing for a more contemporary display of the archives.
Historical collections and contemporary interventions
From 24 January 2015, Het Nieuwe Instituut is presenting The Netherlands builds in brick, an exhibition that adds a footnote to the assumed triumph of modernism in the period between the two world wars. Drawing on two collections of photographs in the archive, this third instalment in Surprising finds from the collection shows how, even at that time, brick was a popular building material in both traditional and experimental projects. Enriching the presentation are guest interventions by contemporary artists and designers.
The common image of Dutch architecture between the two world wars is defined by the Nieuwe Bouwen movement. During the inter-war period, modern, functionalist designs in glass and concrete were thought to have comprehensively dethroned the traditional brick architecture of Berlage, Kropholler and the Amsterdam School. Yet The Netherlands builds in brick shows that brick architecture continued to develop alongside modernism. Illustrations of that are the expressive brickwork of the Shipping Office Building by Joan van der Mey, and the solidly majestic quality of a residence designed by Willem Kromhout in Noordwijk aan Zee, which rises out of the dunes like a fort.
An odd man out in the exhibition is the brick wall relief by British sculptor Henry Moore, made for the Bouwcentrum in Rotterdam by architect Joost Boks. Moore’s sculpture was completed after World War II at the invitation of the brick industry. Hence the choice of a material that the sculptor, who normally worked in bronze and stone, never used elsewhere. Also of note is the Anker collection of toy-sized bricks that came on the market in 1895 as an alternative to wooden building blocks. This exceptional collection item completes the overview of The Netherlands builds in brick.
Studio Makkink&Bey, responsible for the exhibition design, invited artist Leon de Bruijne, designer Govert Flint and spatial designer Harm Rensink to set the exhibition in a contemporary perspective with interventions. The archive room acquires a less rigid layout that makes it easier to position both the collection and guest interventions.
Surprising finds from the collection
Surprising finds from the collection is a series of exhibitions that showcases the richness, diversity and narrative power of the collection held at the Het Nieuwe Instituut. For this series, archivist Alfred Marks makes a special selection of drawings, photographs, objects and models from the archive of Het Nieuwe Instituut based around a single theme. The collection shows how architects and urban designers responded to the challenges of their time, whether innovatively or conservatively, provocatively or more dutifully.
After Nightbirds and Summer Dreams, The Netherlands builds in brick is the third instalment in the series Surprising Finds, and will be followed in May by an archive presentation that spotlights the period after the war.
The Netherlands builds in brick: Surprising finds from the collection #3
24 January 2015 to 6 April 2015.
Het Nieuwe Instituut, Museumpark 25, Rotterdam. Gallery -1.