In the same year that Fokker and KLM were founded (1919), a government aviation research agency, the RSL, was set up to promote safety in military aviation. The rapid increase in civil aviation, however, caused the RSL to shift its focus and it eventually, in 1937, merged into the National Aviation Laboratory (NLL). NLL carried out scientific research for the advancement of the national aviation industry. In 1961, aerospace was added to its name and field of activity.
In 1939, work began on the construction of a complex for the National Aviation and Aerospace Laboratory in Amsterdam. The location chosen – the Schinkelgebied – afforded direct access to road and waterway links to Schiphol Airport. The complex was designed by the architects H.A. Maaskant and W. van Tijen in the style of the New Objectivity and comprises various laboratories, offices and a wind tunnel building. Construction was finally completed in 1946. In the complex, materials and measuring instruments were tested, strength calculations were carried out and technical issues relating to aviation and aircraft construction were discussed. Various buildings are still in use as laboratories although many components have relocated to a site in Flevoland. The main building and the wind tunnel building received local listed status in 2004.
Brick and concrete
The main building is in the style of the New Objectivity (also known as the Nieuwe Bouwen, or Dutch modernism) and is situated on Anthony Fokkerweg. It consists of nineteen curved concrete trusses, in between which are brick façade areas and windows. At that time, concrete was a modern building material and was widely experimented with. The combination of this modern building material with brick, a traditional building material, is unusual. The concrete canopies above the windows act as solar protection. A large glazed front marks the boundary between the office section (on the right in the photo) and the laboratories and workshops (left in the photo). The straight lines in the design are emphasized by the light façade structure and the façade layout.
Wind tunnel building
At right angles to the main building is the wind tunnel building, which has the same slightly curved concrete roofs. The rectangular building comprises two levels and a glass mezzanine level. On the long elevations are two rectangular extensions – the former wind tunnels. The building currently houses a museum about the history of the institute, which provides the public with an opportunity to see inside this imposing space.
(Yvonne de Korte/ ARCAM)