Berlage blocks

Balistraat 129-141, Benkoelenstraat 1-12, Javaplein 20-38, Javastraat 128-130 en Langkatstraat 1-12
H.P. Berlage
De Arbeiderswoning
Tram 6-7-10; bus 59.
Ons Amsterdam, 2000, nr. 11, p. 302-307; Sergio Polano, Hendrik Petrus Berlage, Het Complete werk, Amsterdam 1987, p.73-77, p.322.

Three blocks of worker’s housing

The so-called ‘Berlage blocks’ form the southern boundary of Javaplein. They were among the first dwellings built for Amsterdam’s poorest inhabitants after the passing of the Housing Act in 1902. The entire complex, two freestanding blocks and a built-on block, contains 169 workers’ dwellings. The floor plan is based on the British ‘model cottage’.

By adding two side streets, Benkoelenstraat and Lankatstraat, Berlage departed from the original brief. The division of the elongated block into three sections and the setting back of the corners enables the dwellings to receive more sunlight. It also produces more public space. Berlage took the idea of a communal garden from J. van der Pek. The blocks share their austere red brick appearance with other complexes of De Arbeiderswoning. Berlage believed this architecture to be suitable for the working class. The last large-scale renovation was in 1969-1971. The dwellings were given a real kitchen and a shower. The front doors were renewed and a lower frontage of a synthetic material was added. In 1999, local residents responded to a proposal by Zeeburg district council to demolish the blocks by setting up the action group ‘Save the Berlage blocks’. The protest and the efforts of well-known architects resulted in a ‘listed building status’ for the blocks. (ARCAM/OD)