Jan Wils

Jan Wils was a Dutch architect, known for his brief membership of Style and the designer of the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. For this design he won at the art competitions part of the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam. He was a great admirer of the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and modern American life, which resulted in a number of apartment buildings, including housing complex Daal and Berg, which are now referred to as the New Hague School term. He was also very active in associations and wrote for several newspapers and architecture magazines.


He was the eldest son of Evert contractor Wils and his wife Jannetje Blankman. From 1903 to 1907 he followed the course of the industry Citizen Evening in Alkmaar. One of his first architectural studies is an Art Nouveau facade of the pharmacy L. Porter in Alkmaar in 1908.  In 1910, he obtained his secondary school diploma also in Alkmaar. After this he made several study trips, mainly to Germany; between 1910 and 1913 he was responsible for small jobs in his father's company. In 1912 he enlisted as a volunteer at Public Works Alkmaar and studied architecture in Delft.


Jan Wils

Jan Wils
Kennemer Garage, Alkmaar. 1912.


In June 1912 he was second in a competition for a "country house", which the Dutch Association of Brick Production Lacy wrote on the occasion of the 'Exhibition of Brick' (see Competition Design).  In 1912 came his first major work to create , Kennemer Garage in Alkmaar. He also designed in this period laborers and summer cottages in Alkmaar and Bergen. In 1913 he moved to The Hague, where he worked as a draftsman for the architect Johan Mutters. In his spare time he took part in the competition for a water office of architect association Architectura et Amicitia. It earned him only a second prize, but his work was so well Facing the jurors Berlage, Kromhout and Van der Pek.

In 1914 married with Wils pharmacy Gepke van der Veen from Winschoten and settled on Van Buuren in The Hague. Then he went to work for Berlage and fell under the spell of his belief in a better (socialist) society. However, everyone went beyond Berlage and later declared himself a supporter of the (spiritual) communism. He came through Berlage in contact with the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Wils was a convinced supporter and propagandist of the American architect, not only because of the 'spatial quality' of his work, but also because of his aversion to individuality and the fact that he is the man took center stage and not the architect.

From 1915 to 1917 Wils served in various competition designs, most of which in the style of the Amsterdam School. Only the latest design in this series, a pavilion in the City Park in Groningen in 1917, is entirely in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Of all 81 entries this design was undoubtedly the most progressive. However, the verdict of the jury was "both a constructive and from an aesthetic point of view, there is something questionable thing in the seemingly floating gallery. The plan is to view it interesting, but would add better for a mountain landscape, than the flat Groninger park. " In 1916, Wils Secretary of Architectura et Amicitia, where he held a successful lecture on January 24 of that year simplified and geometric architecture. These ideas he accomplished in a farmhouse in Winschoten (1916-1917) and the Reformed Church in Kinderdijk (1916-1920), an award-winning answer to a contest.

Wils spent the beginning of his career, also pay attention to the design of interiors and furniture. In 1916 he received an 'honorable mention' in a competition for "workers furniture 'and since 1917 he designed for the Alkmaar Oak furniture and Linde. As an interior designer Wils tried to rid the house of the odds and ends from the 19th century. 

De Stijl

In 1916 he met artist Theo van Doesburg either in the Hague Art Circle or in the Leiden Art Club The Sphinx and their ideas about individuality and modern architecture were so closely interrelated that Wils him the same year involved in the decoration by him 1916 The Long House designed in Alkmaar. Below would Wils and Van Doesburg still often collaborate. Van Doesburg as designed in 1917 stained glass windows and color solutions for school and education in Sint Anthoniepolder and designed for in April 1917 The villa Karperton in Berger Lake. In 1919 Wils and Van Doesburg won a second prize for their design of a monument at the station square in Leeuwarden in response to an architectural competition. Wils designed the layout of the square and Van Doesburg the monument.


Jan Wils

End of 1917, Van Doesburg also involved him in the newly established magazine De Stijl. Wils wrote two articles for this magazine (see Publications) and the end of 1918 he wrote, alongside Theo van Doesburg, Robert van 't Hoff, Vilmos Huszár, Antony Cook, Piet Mondrian and Georges Vantongerloo, the first manifesto, Manifesto I, of the same name group.

In 1918 he designed Hotel Double Key in the center of Woerden, which was regarded as a key work from the early period of De Stijl. When co-Style members J.J.P. Old and Robert van 't Hoff was still in many ways symmetry applied, Wils tried to avoid this in the Dual Key emphatically. He went in so far that he had to solve the complicated panes of the windows by Van Doesburg in different colors. Yet the Hotel had some foreign body, such as a gently sloping roof. This he solved in the November of that year W. Klaas designed double mansion in Alkmaar. He could fully enjoy herein and animated by the facade of building volumes and to jump, causing a high degree of plasticity. In the house found his color traces, probably designed by Huszár.

Long did Wils' membership of De Stijl, however, for in 1919 he had a disagreement with Van Doesburg on financial appreciation for his' color solutions' Double Key and the fact that Wils had written for the magazine Wendingen and became editor of the in 1918 by Co Brandes founded Living magazine art, Van Doesburg saw as counterparts of his own magazine.  Nevertheless helped Wils in July 1920 in the exhibition held in the Hague Art Circle 'La Section d'Or', in which Van Doesburg gave a lecture and he supported Style when it refused to participate in 1925 at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Wils however did win a gold medal at the exhibition.

People's Housing

If spiritual communist had the fight against the housing shortage, which ravaged Netherlands in the years after World War I, his attention. In December 1918 Wils designed a complex of 18 'working class' and a store house for the Woerden Association for Housing. Earlier that year he designed for the Secretary of the Association, FA Minkema, an office at his home on the East dam in Woerden. Everyone was interested in improving the social housing and was looking for a new architecture for new housing.

Jan Wils

Jan Wils


In the spring of 1919 he received the advice of the Inspector of Health, Housing Association Extension West in Gorinchem command there 149 workers' design. Everyone wanted the house groups by grass and flowers to put on a higher plan. However, this plan failed miserably. To the great disappointment of Wils downtrodden residents of the in May 1921 completed wijkje the grass, pulled flowers from flower boxes and destroyed trees.

A very successful example of public housing are the 28 homes that he in February 1920, when he lived in Stompwijk, designed for the Departmental Housing in Oudewater. However, the contract was previously only signed on July 1, 1921. The urbanization, which was completed in 1922, owing to its red brick nicknamed the "red village".

But it did not stop designing laborers. In 1921 he founded housing Bouwplan Voorburg, aiming at the Laan van Indies to build a residential complex comprising 56 homes.

Voluntary Sector

After the First World War Wils active member of the Hague Art Circle; from 1919 to 1923 also as secretary. He liked the lectures The detached monument in the modern cityscape "(1918) and 'Contemporary currents in architecture (1919). He also invited his German colleagues Erich Mendelsohn and Fritz Schumacher to give lectures at the HKK. He also contributed to an exhibition on architecture and housing. This led in 1920 to the publication of the book People's Housing with an introduction by Berlage, drawings Wils and a cover designed by Huszár.

In November 1919 he was present at the Congress of the City-rebuilding "in Brussels, where a large number of Dutch architects took part, including Berlage, Kramer and Kromhout.  On February 5, 1920, he gave the lecture 'architecture' for Members of the Rotterdam Academy. On 22 and 23 November of that year he held two lectures at the Secession in Vienna: the first entitled "Modern architecture in the Netherlands 'and the second' Some thoughts on the architecture of our time." In 1923 he contributed to the occasion of the 25th jubilee of Queen Wilhelmina's exhibition 'Hague Architecture since 1898 ", which opened August 23 of that year. Also Wils 'architectural employee' of the Fatherland, advisor to the securities issued by the Fatherland 'Extra Weekly to combat the housing crisis' and from July 1924 editor of the construction company. He was vice president of the Vincent van Gogh Society and member of the Dutch artists covenant. On 14 June 1924 he was re-elected as a board member of the Association of Dutch Architects. End of 1924, he fought for the 'Dutch Union Instellectuele' that the 'mental distress, due to the World War to an end  make. "

Jan Wils
Housing Complex Daal and Berg, Papaverhof, The Hague. 1919-1922.

In 1919, Wils Voorburg artist Piet Zwart know. Black then worked for two years as a draftsman at Wils and contributed to many major construction projects. He also designed the stationery of Wils. Also Vilmos Huszár, members of De Stijl had remained, worked for some time for Wils. So Huszár designed Wils and between 1920 and 1921, the photo studio of Henri Berssenbrugge in The Hague, where Wils interior and furniture designed and Huszár foresaw this color. All designs Wils this close closer to the principles of De Stijl.


Autumn 1918 made Wils a design for a contest, which was organized by the neighborhood association Bezuidenhout in August of that year to improve the connection between the Bezuidenhout quarter and District VII in The Hague.  Wils' solution week in the sense of the other submissions, that he designed not just another garden city, but monumental blocks placed around huge, semi-public courtyards. It is unknown whether Wils has submitted the draft, but he applied the same idea a little later in both the residential complex Daal and Berg, which was part of the expansion plan Laan van Meerdervoort II in The Hague.  On July 5, 1919 Wils was the Cooperative Housing Association Daal and Berg asked to design this complex. It was finished in 1921 and the breakthrough of Wils as architect. Yet not everyone was positive. H. W. Falcon wrote in response to the end of 1920 's-Hertogenbosch held' at the Royal School of Technology and Crafts in Exhibition of Small Houses "that he thought he knew more clever work Wils.


In August 1920 designed Wils on behalf of NV Hollandsche Deurenfabriek C. Bruynzeel and Sons the new door factory of this company in Zaandam, and the bungalow Stormhoek for director Kees Bruynzeel, also in Zaandam. Bruynzeel Wils would then consult to 1956 for extensions of this plant. 

New Hague School

Everyone is counted along with Co Brandes to the New Hague School, a term for the first time in 1920 by CJ Blaauw was used.  The influence of Wright on the New Hague School is evident, especially regarding the plans. Decoration was hardly present. Beauty was obtained by the harmonious grouping of building volumes combined with horizontal and vertical accents in the form of sills, lintels and awnings.

Many of Wils' ideas are also reflected in the publication The Residence, which was published in two volumes of 1922-1923 (see Publications). These booklets were designed for people with low incomes who wanted to build their own home or remodeling. He wrote this that modern architecture meant a simplification of the public and a deepening of the spiritual life. " The house was, according to Wils' cause a sensation beauty, but also a sense of well being, of easiness to be inhabited, from owning practical usability. He also pleaded for the flat roof, using reinforced concrete and maximum light. He also described the color as an independent element 'a promising phenomenon. "

Wils was also an admirer of the work of the Scottish furniture designer Eileen Gray. In his own words when he came into contact with her work, he visited an exhibition in Paris. In 1922, she exhibited a black lacquered folding screen at an exhibition in Amsterdam. Gray, however, was so unhappy with the arrangement that they Wils asked to change it. Later, in 1924, Wils wrote the introduction for a number of Wendingen completely dedicated to her work.  He also wrote twice, in 1923 and 1932, positive about the work of William Penaat.

In 1923 Wils joined in the discussion around the new city hall at the Spui. Because he was afraid that if 'a spot of a few hectares everything one monumental buildings "would be built, as was previously done on the Coolsingel in Rotterdam, he signed on 5 February of that year, along with other Berlage Rose Mountain and the Director of the Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Calf, an address to the congregation with the request to build the new city hall on the Alexander Field. The municipality, however, did not agree and so designed Wils in 1924-1925 under the direction of Calf an alternative design for the Spui, which was not accepted.


Jan Wils
Block, Joseph Israel Square, The Hague. 1925-1926. Originating from the 10th anniversary issue of De Stijl


Wils developed a taste for urban residential hotel or villa, a luxury apartment building, the American example, "ready-furnished and where you wegslaat all walls  beds, tables, chairs, cabinets, ironing boards. These ideas he accomplished in 1925 in collaboration with a French Lourijsen designed building at the Joseph Israel Square in The Hague. These were for that time very luxuriously appointed residences, complete with heating, telephone and central kitchen.  Another example is designed in 1937 at Pine Courts Badhuisweg, also in The Hague.

From 1925 to 1926 Cor Eesteren worked briefly on the desk of Wils. Of Eesteren made include the presentation drawings (unexecuted) sanitary-technical office JG Crusts on the Place Royale, which was very progressive with its excellent balconies and glass façade.

Land and buildings for gymnastics, games and sports

In December 1924 Wils was commissioned to design the buildings for the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. This task he owed to his good contacts with the Vice-President of the NOC, Pieter Scharroo, with whom he wrote about this time a manual for Land and buildings for gymnastics, games and sports. Also Wils had distinguished himself in October 1924 in the design of a sports Wassenaarseweg in The Hague and he was from 1925 active in the sport as a lecturer at the Academy concerned for Physical Education in Amsterdam.  The end result, Olympic Stadium and several other buildings, including a fencing hall and a building for strength, was generally very well received by the world of architecture. Photos of them were exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, where he was presented on July 30 in the presence of the NOC and various art and architecture associations a certificate.  For his contribution to the Olympic Games, he was appointed on 2 August to officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau and later that day he won the first prize in the architecture of the Olympic arts tournament.


Jan Wils

Jan Wils


Yet there was also criticism of the stadium. The absence of both Architectura et Amicitia and Structure during Wils' ceremony were significant.  The latter was most evident in its criticism and found himself Wils, by coating the concrete construction with brick, was guilty of sensationalism. But not everyone in the new business angle thought so; as Ben Merkelbach found that they did not need 'to be ashamed of this test of Dutch architecture to show foreigners ".

After this, the orders poured in. So he was still during the games by the City of Warsaw invited to act as consultant for the construction of the new stadium in the city  and he designed in Park Leeuwenbergh a sports complex, where he was co-owner.  On March 6, 1929 asked the Board of Aldermen of his hometown of Alkmaar him to design a new Municipal Sports Park. The College wrote, almost apologetically: "We are aware of the fact that the small size of the plan do not justify this appeal but we only hope that you are of your hometown the service would like to prove that will ask of you little labor and for us it will be of great importance. " The stand in this sports park, with a capacity of 1,100 visitors, was a lot more modern than the Olympic Stadium and was also the first column-free sport stand in Europe. Architecture critic G. Westerhout described it as "a freshness, smooth, daring thing is completely himself."


Jan Wils


He was in 1929 or 1930 were asked to design a new building of the Academy of Physical Education in Amsterdam and in 1930 he designed a building for the Amsterdam gymnastics club Hygiëa that would contain different from the previous building, a swimming pool and a rowing venue. None of these designs, however, was carried out.

In 1931 he was asked to calculate the exploitation and to design the street plan of the later Feyenoord Stadium in Rotterdam, but the contract for the stadium itself eventually went in 1935 to Brinkman and Van der Vlugt. Van der Vlugt had Wils otherwise good contact. With the Feyenoord Stadium had the Olympic Stadium is a formidable competitor, which began in August 1936 to expand the capacity of the Olympic Stadium through a large concrete shell, also designed by Wils, whose construction this time it was clearly visible . The following year he designed together with the Portuguese architect Carlos Ramos a stadium with swimming pool in Lisbon, which was not performed. Also a sports and exhibition complex on Scheldeplein in Amsterdam (1937) and "Coliseu do Oporto (1938-1939), a theater hotel in Porto, were not carried out. 


What Wils missed Style and Socialism he found perhaps in Freemasonry: personal development on the basis of equality. On 29 April 1929 he became an apprentice mason in 1931 apprentice and on March 4, 1932 master's lodge L'Union Frederic in The Hague. Until his death he remained a member of this lodge, with the exception of the period 1955-1961, when he was a member of the Flaming Star. In addition, he founded June 21, 1931 together with the architects AH Wegerif and H.A.J. Baanders the Masonic Temple Building Society, which was to give direction to build or remodel Masonic lodges.

Shortly before that, in 1930, changed the interior Wils Loge Silentium in Delft, which, however, was not successful; there was considerable disagreement in the Lodge. After the war (in which this interior was destroyed), the lodge room was not rebuilt in its style. . Around 1935 wrote the Order of Freemasons among its members a competition for a "Emma-bank", in memory of the deceased Queen Mother in 1934, which was won by Wils. This bank was destroyed in World War II, but was reconstructed in a modified form in 1959.

Jan Wils

Citroen garage, Stadionplein, Amsterdam. 1929-1931.


Industrial buildings

In 1929 he designed on behalf of SA Automobiles Citroën in Amsterdam a new garage. Everyone would initially had no interest, because he considered it beneath his dignity to work for an automaker. Freedom and offered fee would have accepted him anyway eventually.

On August 20, 1931 signed Wils the construction contract for the construction of the by him in collaboration with engineers Van der Wall and Jonk Heit designed office of OLVEH in The Hague, which opened on July 23, 1932.  In the opening speech said Willem Kromhout which, like Wils was a member of Masonic Lodge L'Union Frédéric, "that there is a correlation between the stature of an architect and the general lines of the building," here referring to Wils' angular figure.

In 1932 Wils again a member of the Hague Art Circle, where he was asked to be chairman of the department of architecture and decorative arts.  This position he continued to hold until December 1935, when he was succeeded by Hein van Zeggeren.  1933 he designed some furniture for the royal family: a bench in the park Huis ten Bosch and a writing table for Princess Juliana.


Jan Wils

Office for the Central Business Association for Mutual Health Insurance, Van Alkemadelaan 700, The Hague. 1933-1935.


In OLVEH office is clearly the influence of Dudok noticeable. This effect is more pronounced in the office of the Central Association of Health Insurance Mutual Company in The Hague, which he designed in 1934 and that is very reminiscent of Dudok Calvijnschool in Hilversum. Five years later, in 1939 Wils his last major office, the Columbus House, on the Coolsingel in Rotterdam, because of the outbreak of the war, could not be carried out. 

Town Planning

In 1934 Wils wrote for The Hague book a contribution on the state of affairs with regard to modern architecture in The Hague. This essay was followed by a large-scale plan for the redevelopment of the area surrounding The Hague Central Station and a wide thoroughfare between that area and Scheveningen. The design was developed in collaboration with professor at TU Delft, Herman Rosse, and had one hand provide better access to the center, while ensuring the green character character of the city. Possible reason for the project were the plans Dudok currently developed to include the neighborhoods Ockenburg, Mariahoeve and Reigersbergen. Wils area took in hand that Dudok had beaten. The road was designed by Wils also provide a better connection between his hometown, Voorburg, and Scheveningen, where he was a regular visitor of Society The White. Wils and Rosse presented their master plan in January 1935 in Pulchri Studio, but beyond a good review in the Haagsche Courant it did not.

In 1939 received Wils of an operating contract the grounds of the old Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam redesigning. For this made Wils and his assistant Rein Fledderus use of design that WG Witteveen in 1931 was commissioned by the Department of Urban Development. Wils had hitherto but little sense of urbanism. In November 1932, he said this in a lecture: "Urbanism, or rather urban art, in extreme consequence no different architecture - tout court. Gradually the Zoo Plan he came back from here, however. In a lecture in March 1940, he called for more government intervention and a scientific approach to guide urban expansion on track. 

City Theater

The contract for the City Theatre in Amsterdam, a stone's throw from the Leidseplein, he received in November 1934 of the Hague City group. Here he probably made use of the design that Jan Duiker made for the previous owners of the land to cultivate, taking the hall of the longitudinal axis, like those of the Cineac diagonally placed on the building line. Additionally Wils hold back on an unexecuted design for an entertainment complex on the Amstelstraat, which was made in 1931 for Jean Desmet by reserving the entire ground floor for the required waiting. The City Theatre is an important step in the typological development of cinema as an independent building. The interior was largely designed by the German architect Oscar Rosendahl. From 1935 to 1936 he designed, again in collaboration with Rosendahl, Van Swinden Theatre in Amsterdam East, which also includes a diagonal room.

In 1936 was invited to take Wils seat in the international jury of the architecture competition of the Olympic Games in Berlin  and in July 1937 he was elected Chairman of the 'Art of Allen. "

Shop Houses

In the 30s Wils was no stranger to the Hague glitterati.  Perhaps he received from these groups in 1937 and 1939 was commissioned to design two luxury shop houses on the High Street. The first shop house Embassy, ​​inspired by modern passenger ships, while the second, more luxurious shophouse Splitter Frères influenced by Sybold of Ravesteyn, who found that Building the New within the lines, even baroque details and round shapes should be possible .

In 1937 Wils designed a district of 100 houses and four shops Emperor Charles Park in Amstelveen. Earlier, in 1926, he would have built a bridge in the same park. In this district, which was completed in 1939, Wils returns to the traditional garden city: simple terraced houses with tent roofs. This district also has a lot more boring than, say Papaverhof. 


Like many architects of his generation Wils contributed to the reconstruction of the bombed city center of Rotterdam on May 14, 1940. The housing shortage after this bombing was big, so it was mainly large-scale residential realized until the freeze of 1942. Wils contribution consisted of a block of flats on the Schiedamsevest which he incidentally already worked from December 1938, and to a much larger housing complex 'on American way' Goudsesingel.

From 1943 he was involved in the renovation of the Hotel Carlton in the Albus in Amsterdam after a burning plane on the building had crashed. He was also a member of the Commission for Preparation of Reconstruction and Restoration of The Hague, "which put together a development plan for the war heavily damaged Hague and Scheveningen. This plan was developed by Wils' neighbor Herman Rosse and resembles the plan that they presented together in January 1935. But this design came to nothing. Wils however designed or late 50s together with his then partner Frans Charlottenhof a fairly ambitious development plan for Kijkduin. This plan was rejected by the Minister, who found that a local seaside resort Kijkduin had to stay.

The design of a pier in Zandvoort that Wils from 1954-1955 along with H.Th. Wijdeveld designed is also extremely ambitious. This pier is horseshoe-shaped and includes an entertainment complex and towering hotels. The commission came from a committee of entrepreneurs, but the plans were apparently not feasible. Earlier, in 1951-1953, Zandvoort for Wils designed the Hotel Bouwes while elsewhere on the boulevard was completed in 1965, the 70 meter high Bouwes Palace. The last building is still iconic for Zandvoort.

Earlier, in January 1949 he traveled through New York to the Netherlands Antilles, where he designed a casino in collaboration with Jacob Fresco. But Wils was the first decade after the war, most involved in the housing industry. He had become an ardent supporter of the relatively inexpensive system construction. Previously he worked with French Ottenhof, who from 1941 to 1951 in the office of Wils worked and who had the necessary experience in standardization in housing. Charlottenhof supervised the project Goudsesingel and had an important share in housing in include Vlaardingen, The Hague, Vlissingen and Katwijk. On April 19, 1952 Wils had a discussion for the construction of a building with 5,000 homes in the South African city of Johannesburg. An important client in this period was the contractor Rein Zwolsman, who was like Wils member of Society The White. In 1956 Charlottenhof returned as companion back on the desk of Wils.

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