15 - Architecture in the Noordoostpolder: Delftse School and the Nieuwe Bouwen

Twenty years after the draining of the polder in 1942, construction history has been made with the realisation of eleven residential centres with 3,000 homes, 250 corporate buildings, shops, cafe-restaurants, 53 schools, 36 churches and a hospital. In addition, there were 1500 farms and 225 horticulture and fruit farm firms and projects were underway in that period to build an additional 1800 tenant buildings and 1000 agricultural worker homes.

New-Style Building and the Delftse School

The Netherlands before World War 2 saw two major architecture movements. The Nieuwe Bouwen [New-Style Building] and, as a response to the former, the Delftse School.

Example of the Delftse School in Emmeloord: the Cornerstone (1)

Example of the Delftse School in Emmeloord: the Cornerstone (2).

In the latter movement, architects sought to connect to traditional architecture. Building materials were hard to come by after the war. Buildings that were already frugal in their design, became even more frugal in the actual construction to save on costs. The simplicity of material use and design has turned into a unique concept in the Noordoostpolder. And now, over half a century later, this is still very visible.

Nieuwe Bouwen

The 'Nieuwe Bouwen' architects strived to achieve a new, pure 'visual language' with simple lines, motifs and volumes. Designs were based on the principle of efficiency. With the help of standardisation and developing building systems, the construction had to be efficient and consequently affordable. The architect was to become the organiser of the home. A house was to be divided and furnished practically, and be easy to maintain. The functional and clever floor plans were an exact match with the defined indoor activities. This same quality, only a few decades later, would prove to inhibit users in their need for more living space that many began to despise these small and clever homes. Furthermore, many of these homes, in the Noordoostpolder as well, are no longer complying with present-day standards.

The former Office of the Dienst der Zuiderzeewerken (dep. Noordoostpolder) dates back to 1948. The building has the stylistic elements of the Delftse School, of which it is a frugal variation.

The De Delftse School

Let us go back in time. After World War 1, a period ensued of economic growth that also manifested itself in a growing construction production. Many homes and schools were being built and industrial complexes and offices began to arise. Industrialisation and technological innovation paved the way for new possibilities, also when it comes to building techniques and processes. With the arrival of Nieuwe Bouwen, and the associated Nieuwe Zakelijkheid, a counter-movement popped up in the 1930s. The downfall of regional features and building traditions in a time of innovation and scaling-up was taken with a dim view. Urban development and architecture saw a return of old principles and traditions that had to contribute to a feeling of identity and security. This movement had its eminent emissary in Prof. Dr. M.J. Granpré Molière (see also pane 14). Because he was linked to the Delft Technical College as a professor, the movement was quickly dubbed Delftse School. In the pre-war years, the movement gained in influence. All over the country we see various prominent buildings with the strict brick architecture. These were also the years when the Dienst Zuiderzeewerken was working on preliminary plans for the Noordoostpolder.

We can find examples of the Delftse School in the Zeeasterstraat in Emmeloord, built during the war: small homes with beautiful details in brick laid with different masonry bonds. Typical elements also include the steep roofs and dormers.

Roman-Catholic church and former post-office.

At a small distance away, at the Koningin Julianastraat, we find another wonderful example of the Delftse School. The homes with very high and steep roofs and grey roof tiles give the street a distinguished look. Beautiful interlacement beneath the gutters are an expression of a long-standing tradition in Dutch brick-style architecture. The concrete frames around the windows and front door enhance the elegant look.

National heritage site at the Koningin Julianastraat, Emmeloord: two virtually identical terraced homes with garages, erected in clean brick from rectangular maps.

Rural area

In the rural area, hundreds of agricultural worker's homes, tenant buildings and farms were erected, with very different roof types Distinctive stylistic features of the Delftse School, like experimenting with window sizes, the recessed front doors, the use of frames around windows and doors, will dominate the image of house building in the Noordoostpolder for years to come. The use of ornamental brickwork, however, declines, while new building techniques and materials merge with traditional architecture.


During and shortly after World War 2, one village after the other received its final design and the building plans were put on paper in the same spirit. These plans were only changed for Nagele, one of the last villages to be constructed, into a plan following the principles of the Nieuwe Bouwen.

Nagele: Reformed church 1962.

Nagele has homes and buildings based on the designs by Gerrit Rietveld and Aldo van Eyk.

Map with hiking trail.

Map of Nagele.

Movie: A modernistic building is the R.K St.-Isidorus church in Nagele from 1960-1962, which is now used as Museum Nagele since 1998 (2002).

Street in Nagele.

What is modernistic about the design of the houses are the flat roofs and a facade as a composition of rectangular planes and horizontal strips. One remarkable detail is that the house had to be built with traditional materials.

Here is a recap of an interview with an elderly lady from Nagele: "We were happy to have a clean and bright house in the polder. When we first came here, we barely had anything. It was quite a peculiar thing at first that the houses in Nagele did not have a tiled roof, but we did not need it. Even the children had separate rooms. It was not until later, when we needed more room to store our memories and old belongings, that we began to miss the attic. Friends who lived in the adjacent village did have an attic. Gradually, in the eighties, we noticed more and more people leaving Nagele for a larger residence elsewhere.  Fortunately, the decline of the village has been turned around and most Nagel people are very proud of their remarkable village.

But we also see fine examples of the Nieuwe Bouwen outside of Nagele. At the Oosteinde in Marknesse, we see a house with garage designed by architect F. Klein The constructions, both with a slightly sloped pent roof, have protruding parting walls that lock up the front facade.

Weighbridge and office with pent roof, (2004), now used as an aviary.

In Ens, Espel, Nagele and Rutten, the weighbridges were joined by beautiful, small white buildings with pent roofs. Using a minimal amount of materials and slender glass profiles, they exude a fragile beauty. While the Delftse School sought to link up with the past, by using traditional materials and details, the scarcity of materials and limited budgets pushed designers and workers to achieve the construction projects in the most efficient manner and with the latest building methods. One of the clearest examples of this are the hyper-modern vibrated concrete barns (see also pane 16).

Reconstruction architecture

Gallery-entrance flat: The Kettingflat in Emmeloord.

After World War 2, a movement gained in prominence in which both the features of the Nieuwe Bouwen and the traditional architecture were joined together. This is what is called the Reconstruction architecture. Particularly in the second decade of building in the polder, the Reconstruction architecture shows its beautiful merges of different styles and perspectives. An elegant division of the facade is combined with a saddle roof, while brick and concrete are used side by side. A nice example of the Reconstruction architecture are the gallery-entrance flats De Ketting, De Meerpaal, De Tros and De Boei at the centre of Emmeloord: a graphical arrangement in brick with concrete cornices around the large glass panels of the bright stairwells, with the building block itself covered by a bland, sloped saddle roof.

The architecture of the Noordoostpolder, in all its simplicity, is of utmost importance, as it represents the Reconstruction architecture. And while we find examples of this movement all over the Netherlands, it has its purest form right here.