The archive of architect Evert Jelles has recently been catalogued and digitised. Jelles was a leading representative of the Dutch late Functionalist tradition in the period 1965-85 and is credited with rediscovering the work of Jan Duiker.
Jelles’s archive covers the period 1956-91 and the majority of the materials were created within his professional practice. The archive also contains work from Jelles’s studies at the Technische Hoogeschool in Delft.
E. J. Jelles (1932-2003) grew up in Indonesia. His father was a civil servant and his mother was an artist. Upon his return to the Netherlands, like his contemporary Herman Hertberger, he studied at the Technische Hoogeschool (TU) in Delft (now Delft University of Technology), where the curriculum was strongly influenced by Jo van der Broek and Cornelis van Eesteren, both of whom supervised Jelles’s graduation project in 1960. In line with his teachers, he remained loyal to the principals of Functionalism. Pre-war Functionalist architecture, in particular that of Jan Duiker, was an important source of inspiration. His aesthetic is characterised by an honest use of materials and visible construction.
His work also shows the influence of Structuralism, which was emerging in Amsterdam during his period of study at the TU. This is typified – especially in his early work – by the visible use of wood and (concrete) bricks, and interconnecting square plan elements, a form similar to cell structures. Eventually the Structuralist influence brought about a certain softening of his Functionalist vocabulary.
Although he worked on some commercial and industrial buildings, Jelles was drawn primarily to social projects, especially social housing and community centres. The project files contain mainly sketches, drawings, correspondence, photographs and slides. A part of the archive comprises materials relating to the work of Jan Duiker, whose revaluation is due in large part to Jelles’s pioneering research. Jelles collected the materials in the period 1959-62 during his research on the Zonnestraal Sanatorium. In 1962, Jelles was commissioned by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Architectura et Amicitia to organise an ‘action-exhibition’ aimed at preserving the building. The January 1962 issue of Forum magazine was also devoted to the Zonnestraal Sanatorium.
Appreciation and relevance
The professional literature contains relatively little discussion and few outspoken valuations of Jelles’s projects. The significance of his oeuvre resides in an integral appreciation of his design work and the assessment that his early work in particular, and especially his private residences, is interesting in terms of the history of architecture. The house he built on the Westerduinweg in Zandvoort (1962-63) has been a national monument since 2014 and is seen as an excellent and almost pristine example of a ‘modernist villa with studio’.
Jelles is named in Het Nieuwe Instituut’s acquisitions policy document, ‘Making Choices’, under the acquisitions theme ‘Housing’. Focal points within this theme are both small-scale urban renewal and large-scale urban restructuring. The subjects within the ‘Housing’ acquisitions theme are City and Urbanism, and Prosperity and Welfare. Jelles’s designs for social projects, including housing, sports and recreation, fit within this latter category.
An acquisitions theme within which Jelles is not named, but which is nonetheless pertinent to him, is ‘The Role of the Architect’. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Jelles saw himself neither as an artist nor an intermediary in solving social and spatial issues but as an engineer. In many of his projects, he experimented with traditional materials such as wood, or with new construction methods and combinations of materials, such as concrete and plastics. His designs were rooted in construction techniques. The specific relationship between design and materials was a theme of several lectures at the Technische Hoogeschool in Delft.
A. Prins, Waardering en selectie van het archief van Evert Jelle Jelles (1932-2003)
M. Risselada, Acquisitieadvies archief E. Jelles.
View the inventory of the Jelles archive in the Search Portal