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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is always best to take the tour at 1500 as it is guaranteed to be 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 Times||Tue-Sun 1100-1700, guided tours start on the hour 1100-1600. The 1500 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.|
Alternatively, order the Iamsterdam City Card online here which includes free entrance to Museum Het Schip.
|Getting There||The 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 8 September 2022. This article was first published in 2014 and has been regularly updated.