Het Nieuwe Instituut has recently acquired the archive of Gerard van Zeijl (1940-2017), former professor at Eindhoven University of Technology. In addition to documentation relating to his design practice and teaching career, the archive also features fine art, including several surprising collages and screen prints from the period 1963-78.
Van Zeijl worked at Eindhoven University of Technology for thirty-five years, first as a lecturer and later as Professor of the History and Theory of Architecture. Van Zeijl was also given the responsibility of raising the profile of the Faculty of Architecture by, for example, leading doctoral research projects. Thanks to his efforts, the ‘Eindhoven School’ became is byword in the Dutch architectural scene.
The educational policy in Eindhoven in the early years of Van Zeijl’s tenure was a reaction to that of the Delft University of Technology, which was considered too artistic and elitist. In Eindhoven, by contrast, the curriculum was based on rational principles. This stringent approach was also soon abandoned, giving way to a balance between an artistic approach and a reflective awareness.
There was a great eagerness to explore new perspectives. Van Zeijl: ‘People were keen to distance themselves from pre-war Functionalism. That was architecture for architecture’s sake and was culturally hollow. Everything from history was rejected. In Eindhoven, there was a reorientation within the profession and there was a revaluation of the historical background to architecture, including its technical and cultural aspects.’
As a lecturer, Van Zeijl considered it important to ‘besiege’ the design culture with images: he attempted to instil experimentation and critical thinking in his students. Van Zeijl confronted them with their own fascinations but also with the social responsibilities of their work as architects. He wanted to ‘seduce them into an investigative attitude’, which has become known within the faculty as ‘research design’.