Hendrik Petrus Berlage

Hendrik Petrus Berlage was a Dutch architect born in 21 February 1856. though he was not one of 4 prophets of architecture influencing modern architecture:  Le Corbusier, Walter Grophius, Frank Lloyd
Wright, and Mies van de Rohe but his works, ideology and even is architecture theory is in that mainstream. In a certain level, perhaps just because he was not born in USA or German, that he did not inherit Bauhaus tradition, then Berlage was not really known as those 4 figures.

Berlage was recognized in 1905, when he published Gedanken which was written for study subject he taught in previous year. This work then revised, and extended and developed in 1908, and then published as Grundlagen. Those two works shows contect and value about new concept and architecture, distinct then before.

Berlage’s popular architectural works are: “Commodities Exchange “ in Amsterdam (1897 –
1909); Christian ScienceChurch, at The Hague, Netherlands (1925 – 1926); Municipal Museum, at The Hague, Netherlands (1927 -1935); Diamond Workers’ Union Building “ in Amsterdam ( 1899 – 1900); “ Holand House “ in  London ( 1934 ).

Though he was busy as a practitioner architect, he had interest in philosophy and architecture theory. He studied Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and also learnt architecture theories from 19th century such as Ruskin, Semper, and  Viollet le Duc. Even so , Berlage did not like 19th century capitalism behavior toward mass production, speculation and fake new revivals. Though Ruskin, Semper, and Viollet Le Duc worked in neo style, for Berlage, purification and structural approach  had made them as school for the new architecture.

Berlage defined new architecture principals based on world and ideology view, that architecture should be based on equal social, for human being especially labor. This showed left stance in architecture. According to Berlage, only social structure from a culture which can be a source and true inspiration in society. Both are regulated in Unity in Plurality of Goethe.

Even so, Gottfired Semper also formulated Einheit und Vielheit (Unity and Plurality) in his work Prolegomena, a a chapter used by Berlage as catechism. Therefore can be concluded that Berlage based his concept more on Semper than Goethe. Berlage’s work expressed it, from the way he classified diversity spatial-functional units, designed as a synthetic unity. Further, Berlage visually explained the principal with certain geometrical ratios ruled by triangular and quadrangular method.

He believed that style is unity in plurality, style is repose, style is order. In Grundlagen, he delineated that geometric comparison laws, by mentioning work of Egypt pyramid, Vitruvius, Violet Le Duc, and so on. In his opinion, geometric and proportion had become general principal in mainstream style in the past.

Essentially,  principal was immaterial, and as an untouchable cohesion from time and space aspects.In that context, Berlage said that space should be proportional  and showed that proportion is visible. target of the architecture was creating space, that architecture should begin from space.

Even so, Berlage and Viollet le Duc, mentioned that geometric was merely a tool, and not more than just a tool to  reach target. Only by unity and diversity are formed, then architecture became an art of space.

The second  Berlage principal was rejection toward approach from outside to inside by eclectic styles. In his opinion architect should design from in to outside not the opposite, that should reveal reality not fake appearance. As architecture is an art of scope, its main value should attach on space. True scope ws formed by walls that should stay planar and bare without too much ornament as in 19th century architectural works.

The third base of spatial idea of Berlage was from the economic-social necessity from new workers society, a concept called as Sachlichkeit, in Jermany. According to Berlage, functionalism was the correct way to reach social economic equality for human. Thus, spatial aesthetic is extended to be functional aesthetic.