Centraal Apotheek Leeuwarden has been on my bucket list for quite some time and when my husband told me last week that he needed to attend a meeting in Leeuwarden I didn’t need long to decide that I would accompany him up North.
In 1905 pharmacist J. Feteris, originally from Kampen, commissioned architect Gerhardus Berend Broekema (1866-1946), also from Kampen, to design a pharmacy with upstairs living quarters. At this corner had been a drugstore before, and it has remained a pharmacy ever since. In 1972, the original orangey-red ceramic slates had become unobtainable and were replaced by natural grey slates. This caused some loss of vibrance, but the building is nevertheless still exceptionally colourful. Since 1983, the Centraal Apotheek is a registered monument (RM24435).
A famous Dutch author Willem Frederik Hermans called this absolutely exceptional building the most beautiful building in Leeuwarden; I also read about comparisons of the pharmacy’s exotic beauty with the exotic beauty of another lady from Leeuwarden: Mata Hari.
The first thing you notice when you approach the pharmacy is its asymmetrical facade. Asymmetry is one of the essential features of Art Nouveau. The most important reason being that Japan was one of the main sources of inspiration for the New Art.
Yet asymmetry is not the only Art Nouveau characteristic of this phenomenal building. If we take a closer look, we can actually detect many typical details which a true Art Nouveau gem is supposed to have: enlarged window openings with surprising frames, like horseshoe arches, of carved stone or colourful – sometimes even glazed – bricks.
Sleek and colourful facing bricks became a new favourite building material. Tile panels as well as wrought iron railings and carved wood in elegant shapes were used to accentuate the construction. Asymmetrically placed corner turrets, pleated gables and varied dormers, canopied balconies, loggias and verandas… they are all there to enliven the facade and brighten up our hearts.
The gorgeous tile panel shows Hygieia, goddess of health and daughter of Asclepius, the god of medicine. Hygieia is holding a bowl, a symbol of the pharmacy profession, and a snake which is actually her fathers symbol related to medicine. The Greek goddess is depicted as a femme fatale, which was a popular theme during the Fin-de-Siècle. Who designed the tile panel or where it was manufactured is unknown.
Even though nothing of the pharmacy’s original interior remains, the exterior of this flawless example of Art Nouveau architecture is a feast for your eyes. Getting up at 6 am and driving 2,5 hours up north… was só worth it!
Dangerous beasts: The Femme Fatale in Fin-de-Siecle Art
The Art Nouveau Style by Stephan Tschudi Madsen (to read the book online, click here)
Wie is Wie in Overijssel – Gerhardus Berend Broekema
Wikipage Centraal Apotheek