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Museum Het Schip – Amsterdam School of Architecture

In the Spaarndammerplantsoen district of north-west Amsterdam can be found Het Schip (The Ship), a monumental public housing block of apartments. Built in the early 20th century, this expressionist building was designed by Michel de Klerk (1884-1923) and is a renowned example from the Amsterdam School of architecture.

The Museum Het Schip is housed in a former primary school at the complex where visitors can view exhibitions and take a guided tour around the building. The tour takes in the old post office, the courtyard garden with slum dwelling mock-up and a 1920s apartment.

museum het schip amsterdam
Museum Het Schip Amsterdam – entrance

Het Schip was designed in 1919 (completed 1921) and contains 102 dwellings, a post office and a meeting hall. The exterior of the building is unconventional to say the least with its bright orange-brown brickwork, sculptures, minarets and exudes a wave-like structure that resembles a ship.

The expressionism of the Amsterdam School style from the likes of De Klerk and Piet Kramer was in sharp contrast to the functional and traditional school of architecture that came before.

The building complex is still in use today providing social housing to Amsterdam residents. By the way, if you want to live there you will need at least 20 years waiting-list time!

museum het schip permanent exhibition
Museum Het Schip Amsterdam – exhibition

In the late 19th century there were concerns over the state of housing and slum conditions of the poor in Amsterdam. Large families were confined to a single room without adequate sewerage or running water. Disease was rife due to the high population density and ill health affected all levels of society.

A mock-up of a slum dwelling is shown on the museum tour.

museum het schip amsterdam slum mock-up
Museum Het Schip Amsterdam – slum

After the Housing Act (Woningwet) of 1901 it was decided to demolish the slum tenements and start building public housing offering more sanitary and pleasant living conditions for the working classes.

So started construction of planned neighbourhoods around different parts of Amsterdam. These were underwritten by non-profit housing associations run by various parties of either socialists, communists, worker collectives or religious groups.

museum het schip amsterdam exhibition
Museum Het Schip Amsterdam – exhibition room

Het Schip was commissioned by the socialist housing association Eigen Haard. De Klerk’s radical building offered families spacious apartments with separate kitchen and bedrooms, flushing toilets and plenty of natural light. Ground floor apartments had a small garden and shed.

In addition, the building’s post office gave the people access to telephone and postal services. This social engineering of the time gave ordinary people the chance to live in a high quality environment

The tour around the complex last around 45 minutes. The guides are knowledgeable and speak excellent English and they will point out many interesting design features. The beautiful old post office is the first stop on the tour.

museum het schip post office
Museum Het Schip Amsterdam – post office

The highlight of the Het Schip tour is a visit to an apartment which has been fully restored with authentic furniture and utensils from a 1920s working-class family.

social housing kitchen at museum het schip amsterdam
Museum Het Schip Amsterdam – kitchen

The kitchen was finished in a blue colour to keep the flies away. De Klerk’s vision was of the whole family socialising together at the table in the living room.

museum het schip amsterdam living room
Museum Het Schip Amsterdam – living room

This apartment lies underneath the building’s famous tower (which serves no real purpose other than symbolism and decoration) and visitors may have the opportunity to climb up to the attic to see its internal wooden structure.

After the tour you can take a stroll around the building garden courtyard and enter the museum itself. There is a permanent exhibition about the Amsterdam School on the first floor.

museum het schip amsterdam tower and garden
Museum Het Schip Amsterdam – apartment tower from garden courtyard

Although a bit out of the centre, if you have any interest in architecture or modern history it is well worth a visit to Het Schip.

museum het schip garden courtyard
Museum Het Schip Amsterdam – garden courtyard and ‘street furniture’ collection

It is always best to take the tour at 1510 as it is guaranteed to be in English!

museum het schip amsterdam tour
Museum Het Schip Amsterdam – 1510 tour is in English

Het Schip also has a small visitors centre at De Dagerad  housing project in the south Amsterdam district of Rivierenbuurt – part of Berlage’s Plan South. It is open Thu-Sun 1300-1700 with tours available. The address is Burgemeester Tellegenstraat 128. Book De Dagerad tickets here

It also runs occasional tours of the Shipping House (Het Scheepvaarthuis, now the Amrath Hotel near Central Station) which is another fine example of the Amsterdam School architecture.

Museum Het Schip Essential Info

Opening TimesTue-Sun 1100-1700, guided tours start at 1110, 1210, 1310, 1410 and 1510. The 1510 tour is in English. Closed 27 April, 25 December and 1 January.
Admission Prices (2022)€15 for adults, €7.50 for students, €5 for children 5-12. FREE entry to children 0-4, Museumkaart and Iamsterdam City Card holders.

You can pre-book Museum Het Schip tickets online here

Alternatively, order the Iamsterdam City Card online here which includes free entrance to Museum Het Schip.

Getting ThereThe museum is about a 25 minute walk west of central station – walk down Harlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk, cross over Haarlemmerplein and enter the Westerpark and then take tunnel under the railway to the northern side and turn left. From Amsterdam Central bus stop (IJ-side) take either GVB buses 22 (direction: Sloterdijk) or 48 (direction: Houthavens) and get out at stop Spaarndammerstraat.

Museum Het Schip, Oostzaanstraat 45, 1013 WG Amsterdam
T: +31(0)20 686 8595, hetschip.nl

Last updated 29 September 2021. This article was first published in 2014 and has been regularly updated.

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