Rijksluchtvaartschool Eelde


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When delving into the impact of De Stijl in the north of Holland, don’t miss this 1950s architectural specimen, which was Dutch artist Bart van der Leck’s final project. With its wide, spacious rooms and an eye-catching colour scheme and interior that reflects the principles of the De Stijl art movement, the buildings of RLS Eelde are a sight to behold. Now, this former civil aviation school near Groningen is being transformed into a creative haven for artists and designers, offices for innovative businesses, an exhibition space and a café/restaurant, all set to open on 1 April 2017.

  • Visit RLS Eelde and experience Bart van Leck’s final De Stijl colour scheme.
  • See where King Willem-Alexander learned to fly.
  • Find contemporary art and witness the remarkable transformation from industrial heritage to a modern, creative haven.

The design and history of the flight school

The former civil aviation school Eelde (RLS Eelde), adjacent to Eelde Airport, near the northern city of Groningen, was a live-in school for would-be pilots. The ranks of its alumni, who lived and studied here and learned to fly, even include Holland’s King Willem-Alexander. The design of the school is well-considered. Built in the 1950s by architect Pierre Cuypers Jr. and F.P. Glastra van Loon, with designs by De Stijl artist Bart van der Leck, the complex includes a large central hall for recreation and several smaller buildings where the students lived. The idea behind the design is that the openness of the spacious and minimalist rooms was conducive to a sense of calm and self-discipline. Yet it wasn’t all stern and serious: in true De Stijl spirit, Van der Leck furnished the rooms and the exterior with large panels of colour. These had the advantage that they livened up the buildings and interiors, but, in contrast to figurative paintings of, for example, flying scenes, they weren’t distracting and wouldn’t date quickly. The design was Van der Leck’s final project before he died in 1958, and is seen as a remarkable and representative conclusion of his oeuvre. 

The rejuvenation of RLS Eelde

After years of sitting vacant, the RLS Eelde complex is entering a new phase of its life, as it’s being transformed into a creative hub. The flight school’s central location means the complex is ideal for offices, its creative spirit is perfect for up-and-coming artists and designers, while the wide, open space of the central hall is perfect for art exhibitions. The café and restaurant, set to open in spring 2017, will also make an excellent meeting point for local creatives and visitors alike.

Celebrating Mondrian to Dutch Design in the north

In collaboration with Museum Dr8888 in Drachten, RLS Eelde is a fantastic spot in which to delve into the importance and influence of De Stijl, both then and now. On 11 and 12 May 2017, Museum Dr8888 hosts a presentation and debate about the colour palettes utilised by Van der Leck and his De Stijl colleague Theo van Doesburg. Looking at both RLS Eelde and the colourful Van Doesburg-Rinsemahuis in Drachten, gain new insights into the role of visual arts in architectural design. A subsequent exhibition in Museum Dr8888 (‘De Stijl & Constructivism in the North of the Netherlands’) runs from 30 September 2017 until 7 January 2018 and is paired with tours of RLS Eelde, as well as a display of contemporary art inspired by De Stijl and Constructivism in the former flight school. This exhibition also coincides with ‘Design Denying the Mainstream’ at RLS Eelde, focused on innovative developments in the field of research, design and organising our environment.

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Discover more De Stijl in the north of Holland. There is plenty to see and do in the area as the country celebrates the centenary of the influential art, design and architecture movement.

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Rijksluchtvaartschool Eelde
Burg. J.G. Legroweg 43