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Hendrik Petrus Berlage

Biographies
Hendrik Petrus Berlage

*  1856 Amsterdam
† 1934 Den Haag


Hendrik Petrus Berlage, a Dutch architect and designer, first intended to become a painter and attended the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. However, only a year later Berlage switched to architecture. Since at that time there were not many possibilities for studying architecture in the Netherlands, Hendrik Paulus Berlage enrolled in 1875 in the architecture department of the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich. Until 1878 Hendrik Petrus Berlage studied there under Gottfried Semper, whose teachings had a lasting influence on his work. After finishing his studies, Berlage spent three years traveling in Germany (1879) and Italy (1880-1881) before returning to his native Amsterdam. From 1881 Berlage was employed in the practice of the Amsterdam architect Theodor Sanders. From 1884 Berlage was even a partner in the business until he opened his own practice in 1889. In 1884 he submitted a design for the projected Commodity Exchange (Beurs van Berlage) in Amsterdam, winning the competition in 1896. This building, completed in 1903, was Hendrik Paulus Berlage's first important commission, which also made his reputation immediately. In parallel Berlage built the Diamond Guild building (1897-1900), also in Amsterdam. With the architect and designer Jacob van den Bosch, Hendrik Paulus Berlage opened a gallery in 1900, "'t Binnenhuis", in which they sold the furniture and objects they designed from 1900-1929. In 1900 Berlage was also commissioned to plan a southern extension of Amsterdam. This was Berlage's most important contribution to urban planning and he worked on the project until 1915. In 1911 Berlage went to the US, where he saw the new buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. Berlage built his own house in The Hague and moved into it with his family in 1913. The Gemeentemuseum in The Hague (1919-1935) was Berlage's last important building. It was not completed until shortly after his death. Hendrik Petrus Berlage was the founder of the "Amsterdam School" and was a pioneer of modern architecture in the Netherlands. In his 1905 essay "Gedanken über Stil in der Baukunst", Berlage fiercely criticized 19th-century historicizing architecture as pompous, reserving his praise for the austere simplicity of early period styles. His criticism was severe since he stated flatly that historicizing architecture was all appearance rather than reality, was not art; too much was imitation, more iron was used than stone, and so on. Hendrik Petrus Berlage was therefore an early critic of Historicism even though his Amsterdam Exchange still reveals Romanesque features.