IJsbaanpad 3
Aldo van Eyck
Frans van Meurs/Burgerweeshuis
Bus 170-172; tram 24
Ids Haagsma en Hilde de Haan, 'Het weeshuis van Aldo van Eyck; architectuur voor architecten', de Volkskrant, 8 april 1991; Liane Lefaivre, 'Orde en het Burgerweeshuis', Forum no. 1, 1987.

Home for 125 orphans

The orphanage, designed by Aldo van Eyck in 1955 to provide accommodation for 125 orphans, was completed in 1960. The building looks like a casbah or a labyrinth. It is composed of innumerable interior and exterior spaces, which are interconnected in a complex order and merge into one another almost imperceptibly. In Van Eyck’s vision, the private and the collective were closely linked and the boundary between the building and the city had to be broken down.

In designing the pavilions which comprise the building, Van Eyck used standard modules which are repeated with subtle variations. The complex comprises a total of 336 modules, grouped around an inner court. Convex roofs of a synthetic material cover the pavilions. The orphanage was a reaction to the architecture of the fifties, with its mass production of often identical dwellings and factories. The industrial architecture provided little scope for individual expression. With the orphanage, Van Eyck sought to focus attention on the individual in architecture once again by, through the repetition of elements, creating a floor plan which is not standardized, by searching for new relationships between interior and exterior spaces, by devoting attention to detailing and by empathizing with the users: the children who would live there.

In the eighties, a plan to demolish part of the orphanage was announced. A large-scale campaign, which attracted international support, prevented demolition. The Netherlands had rediscovered a postwar monument. The complex was saved because a property developer had been found who wanted to buy the building and the site, on condition that he would be able to develop an office complex there. That complex – called Tripolis – was designed by the husband and wife Aldo and Hannie van Eyck, who also carried out the restoration of the orphanage. (ARCAM/JEA/JW)