Dutch design & architecture

Dutch architecture is famous for its often daring, playful and smart design solutions. The work of masters like Rem Koolhaas and Ben van Berkel can be admired in large cities the world over but also in their native country. Our bloggers tell you where to go.

  • Dutch seduction
    Elleke van Duin, Friday, October 10, 2014

    You wouldn’t perhaps expect it but the Dutch have a thing with underwear. For centuries, vests, long johns and pyjama’s kept us warm during the long, cold winters. As a result, the solid fabrics from Jansen&Tilanus (est. 1869) sold like hot cakes, however, after the end of WW2, the company lost the battle against low wage countries. Ten Cate took over the reins and has been supplying the Dutch with functional and comfortable underwear to this day. And practical as we are, good fit is important.

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  • Playing footsie
    Elleke van Duin, Monday, March 10, 2014

    When I am abroad and talk about one of my favourite topics, shoes, I can tell that our Jan Jansen has become known far and wide. And he is the only Dutch shoe designer who is internationally renowned, which is a pity because new top talents have been emerging ever since ArtEZ, Arnhem’s art academy, started teaching a master’s course in shoe design.

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  • Eindhoven, capital of Dutch design
    Jeroen Apers, Wednesday, October 16, 2013

    It was the Philips family’s drive for innovation that put the quiet village of Eindhoven on the map. Philips was one of the first companies to mass produce the light bulb. Many years later they were incredibly successful with both the cassette tape and the compact disc. Having established itself through innovative design, it is hardly a surprise that Eindhoven boasted the first Design Academy in Holland. This educational institute, which evolved out of an old design school, produced many world-famous designers.

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  • Manhattan on the Maas
    Jeroen Apers, Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Compared to other countries, the skylines of Dutch cities aren’t that impressive. But in view of the weak Dutch soil, the high-rise developments in Rotterdam are still pretty spectacular.

    The newest high-rise project in the city is called De Rotterdam. It’s not only named after the city, it also conceals a whole city. The 149-metre tall building houses homes, offices, bars and restaurants, shops and a cinema. Rem Koolhaas of the OMA agency designed it as a melding of three towers. Interestingly, the building of this design was only possible due to the economic crisis. For ten years it was too expensive to build, until the price of steel fell sharply a few years ago. It will open next year, thanks to the persistent, ‘shut up and get on with it’ attitude of Rotterdammers.

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  • Second-hand catering
    Jeroen Apers, Monday, August 5, 2013

    I love the Noorderparkbar in Amsterdam-Noord. It is a tiny little cafe built entirely with materials sourced from Marktplaats, which is something like the Dutch version of eBay. The designers based the end result entirely on what they found on this website. Since all building materials were bought from private individuals, each part of the bar has its own story. The designers documented these stories extensively on the (Dutch) blog hetkomtaltijdgoed.nl. A great read while you are enjoying a cup of coffee at the Noorderparkbar.

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  • HEMA: affordable Dutch design
    Jeroen Apers, Friday, July 26, 2013

    Like pretty much every regular Dutch person, I love to browse the HEMA’s shelves. They have pretty much everything, from paperclips to curtains and from (children’s) underwear to sausage buns (which come highly recommended, by the way). Ninety years ago the Hollandsche Eenheidsprijzen Maatschappij Amsterdam (Dutch Standard Prices Company Amsterdam) was founded as a low-price store. And they are still known for their unprecedented value for money. What really makes them stand out from the competition, however, is their clear philosophy that reflects the belief that cheap does not necessarily have to mean boring or ugly. The products are no-nonsense; you have to be able to see directly what they do. Unnecessary details are eliminated. Every product must comply with the stringent ‘HEMA style bible’. It is a formula that guarantees success.

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  • Enter Off Limit Buildings During the Dag van de Architectuur
    Heather Tucker, Wednesday, July 3, 2013

    Behind the scenes tours - we love them. Or at least I do. Which is why on June 23rd, I was standing in the reception area of the NRC Handelsblad, one of the main newspapers in the Netherlands, waiting for my guided tour of the building.

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  • The Dom Toren: Climbing 465 Steps in Utrecht
    Heather Tucker, Monday, July 1, 2013

    Why did I go to the front? …seventy-seven, seventy-eight… Oh yes, because I thought that would give me more recovery time at the next level, that’s right. …eighty-one, eighty-two… But I hadn’t banked on that active child also being at the front keeping the pace up. Her poor grandfather, he looks like he is also regretting his choice to be at the front. …ninety-three, ninety-four… Not sure my thighs are going to hold out much longer.

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  • Dutch design on two wheels
    Jeroen Apers, Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    Dutch towns would not be the same without the trendy mothers on ‘bakfietsen’. As the use of cars in towns and cities is discouraged, but parents still have to take kids to school, handy bicycle manufacturers are taking advantage. There are now many types, but the extended bike with a box on the front for kids and shopping is starting to become quite a design classic.

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  • Architecture on the Dutch coast
    Jeroen Apers, Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    Scheveningen has grown from a fishing village into the biggest seaside resort in Holland. Its boulevard was recently transformed from a simple sidewalk into a graceful promenade. It makes for some lovely Spanish-style strolling along the beach. Which is only natural, seeing that the promenade was designed by the Catalan architect Manuel De Solà-Morales. And while you are strolling, do take a look at the great little pavilions. ‘Fiets&Stal’ by artist John Körmeling, for instance, a bicycle repair shop that makes you think of a pre-war gas station. The Beelden aan Zee (Sculptures by the Sea) museum is another attraction. Although the word ‘museum’ conjures up images of an eye-catching building on the boulevard, this museum is hidden among the dunes below Koninklijke Paviljoen de Witte. It takes some effort to find it!

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  • TEFAF: Shopping for Those with Expensive Taste
    Heather Tucker, Friday, May 3, 2013

    I’ll admit that the first time TEFAF was mentioned to me, I had no idea what it was. It took some time consulting my trusted friend Google to learn that TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) is “the world’s greatest art and antiques fair, [where] you can buy masterpieces of art.” The next question was, what to wear?

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  • Art Rotterdam
    Ulrike Grafberger, Thursday, April 4, 2013

    A visit to Art Rotterdam is planned for today. Art Rotterdam is one of the most important art exhibitions in Holland. Around 70 galleries from across Europe, including Holland’s top galleries such as West and Grimm, have contemporary art on display. The venue alone is a brilliant one: the Cruise Terminal on the Wilhelmina pier – to me the most beautiful area of Rotterdam. The famous Erasmus Bridge, the legendary New York Hotel, the most exciting skyscrapers and a range of disused warehouses, today in use as an event location, are all here.

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  • Floating architecture
    Jeroen Apers, Monday, March 18, 2013

    The Dutch not only like to live near water – think of the famous canal houses – but also on it. A spectacular example is the De Omval houseboat in Amsterdam, designed by the young architects of +31 architects. With its rounded corners and glass facade it is a futuristic residence. On the inside, the house is split-level, creating an open passage from the roof terrace to the bedroom on the ground floor. And the view over the water almost makes you forget that you’re in the middle of a busy town.

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  • Architecture around the IJ
    Jeroen Apers, Tuesday, March 5, 2013

    Most people visiting our capital go straight from Central Station to Dam square, the canals or Museumplein. That’s a pity because if you take the rear exit of the station, you'll be rewarded with a great view over the IJ, the water that separates the city centre from the north of Amsterdam. On its banks many architectural eye-catchers have appeared over the last few years.

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  • Dress Dutch
    Elleke van Duin, Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    When Iris van Herpen debuted at the Paris Haute Couture Week in 2011, the international fashion press went wild. The Washington Post referred to her as ‘a Dutch prodigy with an awe-inspiring collection’, something she could only dream about in 2007, the year in which she first attended the AFW. Her futuristic leather showpieces with sweeping fish tails and huge wings made an immediate impression. She won various Fashion Awards and her creations were worn by Björk and Lady Gaga. To show the world she is capable of more than 'arty' fashion, Iris is currently working on her first prêt-à-porter collection which will be launched in March 2013. In the meantime, those wishing to sport a real ‘van Herpen’, will have to settle for a shoe by her hand, available from shoe brand United Nude.

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  • This watchmaker aims for the stars
    Elleke van Duin, Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    Let’s say you are looking to buy a new watch. You can of course buy a trendy watch by some fashion designer, but if you really wish to make a statement, you go for a miniature piece of art from watchmaker Christiaan van der Klaauw (1944). This Frisian, who started making clocks in his workshop in Joure in 1974, has been fascinated by our solar system all his life. So much even, that in 1992 he started specialising in making watches with astronomical complications. If necessary, he’ll build an entire planetarium into a wrist watch. “The distances between the planets are enormous, and yet they orbit each other with magical precision. I wanted to capture this wondrous mechanism on a dial”, he explains.

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