The Life and History of Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud

Pages: 6 (1927 words) Published: February 26, 2006
Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud was born in Purmerend, North Holland in 1890. He began his education at Amsterdam's Quellinus School of Decorative Arts and later began working with the architectural firm of Jeseph Cuypers and Jan Stuyt in 1907. Oud was interested in architectural theory, and found his lack of knowledge in that area frustrating. He left the firm after only six months to study at the National School for Art Education in Amsterdam. He had high expectations for the education he would receive at the School, but they failed to materialize. He also attended lectures at the Delft Technische Hogeschool, but was once again disappointed with what knowledge he gained. Oud worked in Theodor Fischer's Munich office for part of 1911, and attended Fischer's lectures at the Munich Polytechnic. These, along with other lectures and experiences in Germany, finally gave Oud what he was looking for in an architectural education. He returned to Purmerend, desiring to focus on new construction and materials in his architecture. He began his own practice, working mostly on residential projects In the projects of his early career, Oud was influenced mainly by Berlage's ideas of honesty in construction and Frank Lloyd Wright's use of floating planes and volumes. In 1917, he designed a duplex workers' house of reinforced concrete. He wished to move away from the restrictions of traditional brick construction, placing emphasis on definition of planes, monumentality, and a synthesis of theory and form. This project was never actually constructed, as Oud felt that "construction in concrete is eminently suitable for a plastic, three-dimensional architecture [but] definitely not applicable to this design." 1

J.J.P. Oud's influences changed somewhat in this same year with the beginning of the De Stijl movement. De Stijl was founded by the painters Mondrian and van Doesburg, architects van't Horr and Oud, and furniture-maker Rietveld, along with several other artists and writers. These artists sought to establish a universal modern style, one that applied to all countries and across all artistic disciplines. The first manifesto of De Stijl, written in 1918, called for "a new balance between the individual and the universal and for the liberation of art from both the constraints of tradition and the cult of individuality. They sought a culture that would transcend the tragedy of the individual by its emphasis on immutable laws. This universal and utopian aspiration was succinctly summed up by their aphorism: ‘The object of nature is man, the object of man is style.'" 2 Although these men wished to provide for "all physical and spiritual needs," structural and functional considerations were often pushed aside in favor of aesthetic concerns. Oud, in describing a new building material and its use in the context of De Stijl, wrote in 1921 that "reinforced concrete offers a homogenous coherence of supporting and supported parts…horizontal spreads of considerable dimensions, and the possibility of co-ordinating pure planes and masses…on a constructive basis, the fundamentals for an art of building of an optically immaterial, almost hovering appearance." 3 This description of architecture begins to speak of the influence of painters in this movement, seeking an architecture that imitated the free-floating lines and planes of a Mondrian work. Oud also went into more detail about his idea of modern architecture, showing clearly both the influences of Wright and De Stijl:

"An architecture rationally based on the circumstances of life today would be in every sense opposed to the sort of architecture that has existed until now…its ordained task will be, in perfect devotion to an almost impersonal method of technical creation, to shape organisms of clear form and pure proportions. In place of the natural attractions of uncultivated materials…the weathering of walls etc…it would unfold the stimulating qualities of sophisticated...
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