A little while ago, we had two appointments in the center of Rotterdam. And a few hours between those appointments. We decided to use our time wisely… and went Art Nouveau hunting. We didn’t have múch time; yet enough for a coffee at Grand Café Wester Paviljoen (1895) and a walk through (part of) the Mathenesserlaan.
We first stopped at De Kunsthal to pick up their brochure Jugendstil in Rotterdam which they have issued a few years ago. (If you want a copy of that brochure too, you’ld better be fast. They only have one box left in the back and they’re not planning on reprinting.)
Now, before I continue, I would like to explain why I am using the terms Art Nouveau and Jugendstil parallel in this post. Personally, I prefer to use Art Nouveau. Why? I don’t know. The term originally comes from France, and Belgium. In Germany, they called the style Jugendstil. The Dutch have their own name: Nieuwe Kunst. However, today, both Art Nouveau and Jugendstil have been accepted world-wide as generic terms. Wedged between Belgium/France and Germany, some Dutch publications use Art Nouveau while others use Jugendstil; even when referring to our own Dutch heritage. The terms are completely interchangeable. Want to read more about this subject? Read my earlier post.
Okay, back to Rotterdam….
When Rotterdam expanded the most, Jugendstil was en vogue. Well known local architects like Johannes Verheul (1860-1948), Jacques van Gils (1865-1919), Francis Jacobus Cornelis Josephus van Beers (1865-1939), Petrus Gerardus (Piet) Buskens (1872-1939), P.J. Oprel and Theo L. Kanters (1842-1897) got a chance to show what they were capable of.
In 1903, urban planner Gerrit Johannes de Jongh (1845-1917) started developing the Heemraadssingel and the Mathenesserlaan. Along these majestic avenues beautiful houses arose for the wealthy middle classes. I gather it must have been a delight to go for a stroll back in 1910.
Lots of homes though, as well as company buildings and shops, were destroyed in 1940 during the bombing of Rotterdam. And after that, during the reconstruction and urban renewal of the city, again many Jugendstil objects were demolished or maimed. No one seemed to care about Jugendstil anymore.
But recently, things have changed. Ugly signboards are being removed, facades restored and beautiful shop fronts appear from behind cladding. Like we are slowly waking up to discover what beautiful treasures we have been sitting on all along.
This also happened around the Mathenesserlaan. Coming from Grand Café Wester Paviljoen (1895), the first buildings that catch your eye are the ones right across, on the corner of the Nieuwe Binnenweg and the Mathernesselaan (nr. 167-175). They were designed in 1901 by architect J.G. Meyns, with a shop at street level and living quarters on the floors above.
Corner Nieuwe Binnenweg – Mathenesserlaan
Not the most spectacular Art Nouveau buildings I have ever seen, but still…
Below, I will give you an overview of some houses I photographed at the Mathenesserlaan. And although these houses cannot in a million years compete with the grandeur of the architecture in for instance Brussels, when you zoom in on the details, you’ll have to agree with me that Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil if you like, was unmistakably present in Rotterdam.
Mathenesserlaan 254, 1900
Mathenesserlaan 256, 1902
Mathenesserlaan 262-264, 1905
As far as this part of the Mathenesserlaan is concerned, I find the last property the most spectacular one. Just look at the woodwork and the stone decorations. It even has a mascaron! The two almost identical houses under one roof were designed around 1905 by architect Petrus Gerardus (Piet) Buskens (1872-1939) as his own home and office.
I have enjoyed our short walk tremendously and I’ll try to go back soon to report on the rest of the Art Nouveau / Jugendstil heritage in Rotterdam. I’m sure there are a lot of hidden gems. Let me know if you have any suggestions. I’ld love to hear about your discoveries!