Until 31 July, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is displaying several loans from the collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut: designs for the Maison Particulière by Theo Van Doesburg and Cornelis van Eesteren, and the Centraal Beheer office building by Herman Hertzberger. These two projects are archetypal examples of two important movements in the history of Dutch architecture: the avant-gardism of De Stijl and structuralism. These loans are part of a long-term co-curatorship programme between Het Nieuwe Instituut and the Rijksmuseum.
The estates of artist Theo van Doesburg and architect Cornelis van Eesteren, both members of De Stijl, are among the highlights of Het Nieuwe Instituut’s archival collections. Maison Particulière is a joint design from 1923. Elaborated in drawings and models, the design was exhibited in the first major exhibition about De Stijl in Leonce Rosenberg’s gallery in Paris. This design for a villa was radical in its innovations. Van Doesburg and Van Eesteren experimented with abstract, geometric forms and primary colours, representing the universal qualities of art and architecture. The axonometric view, a new way of drawing, was both a quest and a demonstration of their ambition to create a new and universal reality through architecture. Van Doesburg and Van Eesteren saw this exhibition not only as an exploration of these ideas but also as a platform for promoting the complete synthesis of art and architecture. This De Stijl experiment has since become world famous.
In 2014 Het Nieuwe Instituut acquired the extensive archive of the architect Herman Hertzberger, one of the leading proponents of Dutch structuralism (1955-1980). This movement was characterised by the search for a new societal model: an urban architecture that could embrace all aspects of social life and provide space for modern man’s self-realisation. In this design for a new office complex for the insurance company Centraal Beheer (1968-1972), Hertzberger developed a new approach to the workplace. In contrast to the conventional model of a long corridor with offices on either side, Centraal Beheer comprises a chain of workspaces linked both horizontally and vertically. Each floor consists of smaller spaces measuring 9 x 9 metres with four workspaces per floor. Each employee was permitted to decorate his workspace according to his own taste. The design demonstrates that a large office building can have a human scale and an informal atmosphere. Contact between employees was considered more important than traditional power relations. The annotated sketches show several detailed steps in the design process of Centraal Beheer.
Since 2013 Het Nieuwe Instituut and the Rijksmuseum have operated a co-curatorship programme for the Rijksmuseum’s twentieth-century displays. Every three months a new selection is made from Het Nieuwe Instituut’s archives, with a focus on two periods: the avant-garde movements of the 1920s and 1930s, and the 1960s and 1970s. The Rijksmuseum takes care of the conservation, and where required restoration, of the drawings. Earlier selections have included works by Piet Blom, Hendrik Wijdeveld, Gerrit Rietveld, Jan Duiker, and Brinkman & Van der Vlugt.