Har Oudejans, Architect (1928-1992)

'Over Grenzen'

Har Oudejans, Architect (1928-1992)

'Over Grenzen'

It has been more than twenty years ago since architect and professor Har Oudejans died. During the funeral ceremony at the crematorium Westgaarde in Amsterdam friend and colleague Kees van der Hoeven gave an impressive speech, which he later on published on internet. Up till now it is one of the few publications about Har Oudejans.

In many ways Hendricus Theodorus Oudejans (1928-1992) was a controversial man. Because of his precise and very personal way of looking at the world around him and his often unusual way of communicating you loved or hated him. His students at the Faculty of Architecture admired this unorthodox architect and teacher for his passionate view on architecture and the zealotic way of discussing it. His main interest always has been the archetypical way in which architecture communicates with us. What is a door? What is a threshold? During his appointment as professor Architectural Design at the Faculty of Architecture in Delft (between 1970 and 1988) he worked with a group of like-minded professors such as Aldo van Eyck, Herman Hertzberger, Joop Hardy, Jaques Choisy and Jan Rietveld (Vakgroep 13). On the other hand in the late sixties there was – as in a lot of other universities – a left wing (we could say Marxist) movement of younger colleagues who didn’t liked his traditional, emotional and human approach towards the field of architecture. In this atmosphere Har Oudejans, tall in stature and with piercing eyes provoked and at the same moment was also quite often provoked.

His contribution to the building environment and the architectural debate of the sixties and seventies at the Faculty of Architecture in Delft has been wrongly underexposed.

Even more reason to start this investigation about the life and work of Har Oudejans and throw the spotlight on him.

Har Oudejans, Architect (1928-1992)
‘Over Grenzen’


The oeuvre of Har Oudejans is modest in size, limited in location and according to his own architectural points of view apparently not spectacular. From 1957 till 1963 he worked together with Ton Alberts and together they designed different churches in Volendam and Zwijndrecht.

His way of looking at things and the ways he describes them in his book Verstandhoudingsmiddelenhowever is extremely interesting and is certainly worth studying especially at times where a lot of architectural designs surpass each other  in spectacular meaninglessness.

His willful contribution towards architecture in The Netherlands after World War II and his special expressiveness is exciting. His friendships with visual artists like Constant and Armando, photographers and filmmakers (such as Ed van der Elsken, Johan van der Keuken, Eddy Posthuma de Boer and Louis van Gasteren) and writers (Simon Vinkenoog) and the inspiration he got from them make him a man of its time . and an interesting architect, national as well as  international.

In a time where information comes to us in a unrestrained and unbounded way a deeper analysis of the turbulent life and modest work of Har Oudejans seems a necessary addition and an enrichment for Dutch Postwar Architecture.

Har Oudejans is a man of extremes. On the one hand he looked at his profession as a craftsman but on the other hand he was very conscious of the necessary changes in society. Thinking about the origin of things he often expressed them in a futuristic way, like his ‘City in the year 3000’. This split has most certainly had a great impact on his view on life in general and architecture in particular. What remains are a couple of complex buildings in which he tried to find the balance between modernity and tradition.

At this moment we are in the process of making a publication about Oudejans. The first chapters cover his formative years. The following chapters deal with his own practice as architect in Amsterdam and the publicity his designs and buildings generate. Core of the publications is his work as professor at the Faculty of Architecture in Delft.

For the first time a complete overview of his oeuvre will be shown.

One of the most important sources we use are the eight blue binders Har Oudejans composed in which he kept all his publications and inspirations as well as important correspondence up to date. The binders present Har Oudejans as an architect with an unbridled passion for and beyond architecture.

During his collaboration with Hans Schlotter at the Faculty of Architecture in Delft, Har Oudejans put into words their mutual friendship as well as his personal view on architecture in this poem (1979):

twee opstanden,

in hun naam

bij de strijd

om hun bestaan,

gebruiken hun verstand

en buigen zich voorover:

’n boog komt tot stand

samen nu in staat

te dragen meer dan

Newton hun ooit

te dragen geeft

maar van groter belang,

niet zonder gevoel

is het doel waarvoor

zij voorover bogen

namelijk hun vermogen

te begrenzen wat zij

ons als ruimte laten