M. BRINKMAN, 1919-1922, Justus van Effenstraat e.o., Rotterdam
Woningbouw Justus van Effenblok / Housing Justus van Effen Block ( M. Brinkman )
© Paul Groenendijk

Michiel Brinkman

Leo de Jonge

Molenaar & Van Winden
Joris Molenaar
Hebly Theunissen
Molenaar & Co.

Michael van Gessel

Urban plans

L.J. de Jonge (ren. 1984-1988); Molenaar & Co., Hebly Theunissen (rest. 2000-2012)

In 1919 Michiel Brinkman designed a complex of 273 dwellings in the Spangen district. Commissioned by the Municipal Housing Authority, it exploits the possibilities of the perimeter block to the full. One large block of 147 by 85 metres enfolds a courtyard containing a few smaller blocks and a central taller building comprising the central heating plant, baths and cycle shelter. A public street running through the large block forks at the facilities building. A new feature for those days was the use of an access gallery, a raised walkway along the block's inner edge. This permitted a high housing density without having to resort to complicated space-consuming stair towers. Almost all dwellings are entered from the inner courtyard. Units on the ground and first floors are accessed at ground level and have their own garden. Above these are two maisonettes reached from the access gallery. All units consist of a living room, kitchen, toilet and three bedrooms, plus central heating (a first for Dutch social housing) and a rubbish chute. The courtyard is entered through four striking gateways, one on each side. Ten staircases and two goods lifts for tradesmen's handcarts lead to the access gallery which, with its ample width of 2.2-3.3 metres, functions as a raised street, a children's play area and a balcony for neighbourly contact and door-to-door services. Plant boxes, tiled artwork and peep-holes for children enliven this concrete gallery, which also has balconies for drying clothes between its columns. There is a stark contrast between the taut, rhythmic street facades and the lively elevations facing onto the courtyard. Each dwelling has its own outdoor area. Initial criticism of the plan was crushed thanks to the intervention of Auguste Plate, director of the Municipal Housing Authority, and various socialist aldermen. This criticism was levelled especially at its 'un-Dutch' character, the emphasis on collectivity and its costly amenities. There were fears, too, that the combination of flat roofs and access galleries would lead to 'dangers of a moral nature'. This use of an access gallery in housing was to be of enormous influence on Dutch architecture. It has served as a continuing inspiration to new generations of architects, as evidenced by the Bergpolderflat, Hengelose Es in Hengelo, Buikslotermeer in Amsterdam and Bleyenhoek in Dordrecht. In 1984, the De Jonge architectural practice began work on renovating this internationally renowned housing complex in close collaboration with the Netherlands Department for Conservation. Pairs of maisonette dwellings were combined into one larger four- or five-room apartment so that families with children could live here once more. The access gallery was carefully restored and partly replaced, while the former baths became a crèche cum clubhouse. The inner courtyard is as traffic-free as ever. In 2012 the complex was completely restored.