The practicalities of Oud

The Spangen municipal housing
project in Rotterdam, 1920-1923 

Image: Construction site for Oud’s
Spangen municipal housing (1920)


J.J.P. Oud, the pioneering Dutch modernist briefly associated with the journal and artistic movement De Stijl, is seldom mentioned alongside the other “great masters” of classical avant-garde architecture: Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Yet many of the themes that other modernist architects would only come to later — standardized mass housing, the industrialization of the building process, and the use of modern materials to create modern forms (apotheosized in the flat rooftop, hitherto unachievable) — Oud grasped already during the years of the First World War. The renowned Soviet architect Moisei Ginzburg later speculated  that this had something to do with Holland’s neutrality throughout the conflict, writing in his 1926 article “The international front of modern architecture” that

Holland, not having participated in the world war, found it possible during this time to carry out far more of their projects than other countries. In recent years, there have been erected not only many separate buildings, but also a whole range of new settlements. While the European architect dug trenches, the Dutchman [J.J.P.] Oud built 3,000 inexpensive apartments in Rotterdam.

The following are hi-resolution scans of plans, sketches, and photographs from Oud’s Spangen municipal housing project, begun in 1920 and completed in 1923, succeeded by the Jaffé translation of Oud’s 1918 essay “The monumental townscape,” originally published in De Stijl. Continue reading