Myth and metamorphosis: Aldo van Eyck's orphanage (1960) in Amsterdam restored

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Aldo van Eyck's celebrated design for a new orphanage concerns two series of four pavilions in a green setting connected by an 'internal street'. Within a geometric pattern of structural cells each pavilion was specifically designed for a certain age group and gender, featuring different built-in play elements and furnishings. This masterpiece of the postwar Modern Movement is generally recognized as an epitome of the ideas of Team X and the cradle of Structuralism. The famous original pictures of the building that fueled the canonical status of the building - as did Van Eyck's inspiring and poetic writings - were carefully orchestrated to reflect his ideas rather than reality, thereby waning the difference between the 'real' original and its 'mythical' manifestation. The actual use of the building diverted fundamentally from the architect's preconceptions. Rather than giving room to individuality and freedom, the particular spaces and specificity of the built-in elements regulated the children's behaviour, and some elements were almost instantly removed. Hence, the building is characterized rather by its metamorphosis, than by its mythical original existence. Its conversion into offices since 1990 required interventions that were partly designed by Van Eyck himself. The building has recently been restored, creating a contemporary office environment at the same time. Major questions were how to value the lost elements of the original building and how to deal with Van Eyck's own alterations, also given the new use as generic office space, i.e. as an unbounded working environment, rather than a regulating domestic environment?

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 15th International Docomomo Conference (IDC 2018)
Subtitle of host publicationMetamorphosis - The Continuity of Change
EditorsAna Tostoes, Nastasa Koselj
Place of PublicationLisboa/Ljubljana
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)978-989-99645-4-9
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventIDC 2018: 15th International Docomomo Conference: Metamorphosis: The Continuity of Change - Ljubljana, Slovenia
Duration: 28 Aug 201831 Aug 2018


ConferenceIDC 2018: 15th International Docomomo Conference


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