Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud

Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud (1890-1963) was one of the Netherlands' leading architects of the International Style of the 1920s.

On Feb. 9, 1890, J.J.P. Oud was born in Purmerend in North Holland. He studied at the Quellinus School of Arts and Crafts, the National School of Graphic Arts in Amsterdam, and the Technical University in Delft. His practical training came in the office of Cuijpers and Stuyt in Amsterdam and Theodor Fischer in Munich, but he was influenced as well by the work of H.P. Berlage and Frank Lloyd Wright. Oud's early buildings, those designed between 1906 and 1916, show a nearly total dependence upon the work of Berlage (for example, the design for a bathhouse for Purmerend, 1915). In 1917 Oud joined Theo van Doesburg and others to found de Stijl (the Style), a group of artists and architects that advocated an artistic expression, now best known from the paintings of Piet Mondrian, in which nature is abstracted into an interrelationship of rectangles of primary colors. Its journal (also called De Stijl) became the mouthpiece of modernism in the Netherlands. Oud's work now assumed the bleached, cubical forms characteristic of the new architecture of the 1920s (design for row houses, Scheveningen, 1917). He soon broke away from de Stijl.

From his position (1918-1933) as city architect for Rotterdam, where his chief concern was mass housing, Oud became a leader in the European architecture of the International Style, the Dutch counterpart of Walter Gropius in Germany and Le Corbusier in France. For the series of books issued by the Bauhaus, Gropius's school of architecture, Oud produced Holländische Architektur (1926), which contains, among other things, an essay on the development of Dutch architecture from P.J.H. Cuijpers through Berlage to Oud himself. Oud contributed a group of low-cost row houses (1927) to the exhibition of the Werkbund, or German association of modern architects and designers, at the Weissenhof in Stuttgart. This exhibition marked the maturation of the International Style. Other outstanding works from this period in Oud's career include the facade design of asymmetrical rectangles for the Café de Unie in Rotterdam (1925; destroyed) and workers' housing quarters in the Hook of Holland (1924-1927) and the Kiefhoek area of Rotterdam (1924-1929). The workers' quarters show the plain stucco cubes, the efficient planning, and the social consciousness characteristic of the progressive architecture of the 1920s in Europe.

From 1933 until his death in Wassenaar on April 5, 1963, Oud practiced as an independent architect. A period of inactivity was closed with the design of the Shell Building in The Hague (1938-1942), but his work of this later period, with an occasional exception such as the Bio Health Resort in Arnhem (1952-1960), failed to go beyond the achievements of the 1920s. In 1955 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Technical University in Delft.


Further Reading on Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud

The only work in English on Oud is a slight volume by K. Wiekart, J.J.P. Oud (1965), with biographical data, bibliography, and illustrations. Oud's writings of the 1920s are discussed in Reyner Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960). For his contribution to de Stijl see H.L.C. Jaffé, De Stijl, 1917-1931 (1956). Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (1958), briefly discusses Oud's work in the context of the whole period.