10.03.2016 | Words by: Jasmin Hoek. Continuing my hunt for more information on the mysterious artwork in De School’s garden, I came in contact with architect Imre van der Gaag. Initially De School asked him to think of ways to integrate a staircase to go down in the club, but his involvement became eventually much bigger than that: not only did he design the two staircases, he also helped with getting all the permits that were needed together with his employer, architecture-studio SKETS, and he guided the entire building process from start until opening.
When I arrive at SKETS, I see a folder full of blue prints, sketches, old pictures and maps with De School written on it on the desk. Imre shows me a map of Amsterdam and points at where De School is located. “The part outside the Ring road that goes all around the city centre of Amsterdam, is much more open than the city centre: there is a lot more nature surrounding the buildings, which are all quite modernistic, and placed further apart. It’s all kind of like the ideas of the architect Le Corbusier. Even though De School is located inside the Ring road (the road right next to the backside of the building), the openness and modern style is more in line with the part of Amsterdam on the other side of the road.”
Le Corbusier is also mentioned as an inspiration to the architect of De School, Jacob Ben Ingwersen, in one of the files Imre gives me. His inspiration is clearly made visible in De School. The most obvious example of this is the vaulted roof with clerestories. “What fascinates me the most is that the building is quite hidden from the main city fabric, once inside it's very spacious and open. When I enter the courtyard, it feels like I’m in another dimension. The architectural function of the courtyard was to create a lot of natural light, which works because almost all of the walls are made out of glass for the biggest part. The garden itself was actually designed in a way that teachers had the possibility to give classes outside as well. You know how the Dutch weather is though; the only 10 days that the weather allowed to give classes outside, the kids were probably on summer break.”
Since we’re talking about the courtyard, I ask Imre if he knows more about the tall artwork in the garden. “Unfortunately I can’t tell you more about the artwork. Even though I am dying to know more about it myself, it’s not that weird that there is not much known about the artwork. I can imagine working on an artwork that’s in a high school’s courtyard might be something past praying for to an artist. Back in the 1960s, during the postwar reconstruction, it was obliged for public developers to use a certain percentage of the project costs for art. This means the artist was hired to make this by the developers, which makes me think there has to be an invoice with the name of artist on it somewhere.”
Imre seems excited when he mentions that De School is on a list put together by the municipality of Amsterdam with a hundred potential postwar monuments on it. “What makes it so special to me is that the entire construction is based on a three-dimensional 1x1 m grid. The best description to me is that of dj/producer Patrice Bäumel. He called the building a three-dimensional Mondriaan.”