H.P. BERLAGE, 1915-1917, Vrijheidslaan, Minervalaan e.o., Amsterdam
Stedenbouwkundig plan Amsterdam-Zuid / Urban Design Amsterdam-Zuid ( H.P. Berlage )
Aerial View  © 1987
At the close of the 19th century, it was clear there was a limit to Amsterdam's concentric expansion. The practice of jerry-building in long, narrow streets, a technocratic translation of the laissez-faire principle of liberalism, was particularly unhygienic and monotonous. In 1900 Berlage was approached to design a plan for expansion to the south. At that time he had had no practical experience in urban design. His main source of inspiration was Camillo Sitte's treatise 'City Planning According to Artistic Principles'. The first plans (1900-1907) took an aesthetic approach, observing such stringent demands as municipal boundaries and waterlevels. Yet in terms of land costs its low development density of 40% would have been too expensive.
The second version (1915-1917) took a more secure look at the necessary expropriations and land acquisitions and offered a more balanced plan. In it, urban spaces are determined by street elevations. The plan is a concatenation of grand avenues, squares and monumental accentuations largely in the form of public buildings. The layout of its streets, green strips and planting was also the work of Berlage. Based on geometric patterns (pentagons) the plan has two main axes: the main road from the new Amstel bridge (H.P. Berlage, 1926-1932) to Victorieplein with J.F. Staal's monumental Skyscraper and the grand axis over Minervalaan (development by C.J. Blaauw, G.J. Rutgers and J.F. Berghoef) aimed towards an intended but unrealized local railway station. The plan includes various dwelling types attached to different social strata, namely villas, maisonettes (stacked and separately accessed) and housing slabs with a communal staircase. The last-named category accounts for 75% of the dwellings.
Typical of the workers' housing is the perimeter block, an urban version of the garden city concept. This and the emphasis on blocks and continuous street walls serve to accentuate the 'collective' element. The whole exhibits a synthesis between an ordered, monumental layout and traditional Dutch leanings towards the picturesque. This explains the preference for Amsterdam School architects when the plan was fleshed out between 1925 and 1940. Brick walls, tiled roofs and wooden window frames were the order of the day, effectively excluding architects of the Nieuw Zakelijkheid with their use of modern materials and design. A few proposals were rejected by the authorities and Duiker's celebrated Open Air School (F45) was relegated to a secluded square. In 1994 Amsterdam-South gained its first modernist infill on Victorieplein, an apartment building by the Rotterdam firm of DKV.