The Story of Geuzenhof –
green, social, experimental

The research project investigates the development process of a special housing complex with gardens: Geuzenhof in Amsterdam (NL) built between 1933-1940.

Amsterdam’s expansion plans, developed in the early 19th century, were based on an interplay of nature and social housing. Garden cities in England and Germany, which were also supposed to fulfil an important social function, served as inspiration. The aim was to provide the poorest city dwellers with a garden – in the form of a communal garden, a sight garden, a green belt or a man-made forest – in addition to cheap rental housing.

“The construction of social housing, which is not for sale but for self-management, not only meets the requirements of the time in social and economic terms, but also anticipates to a limited extent what can be demanded and expected in terms of living comfort in the future.”
Huibert van Saane, envisionair and constructor of Geuzenhof

Performing a social experiment
Political decisions led to an increase in social housing from the 1930s and a drastic decrease from the 1990s. Geuzenhof (586 flats), belonging to the Expansion Plan Landlust, was one of the first social building experiments of this size in Amsterdam and is therefore a good case study to illustrate this development.

At the beginning of Geuzenhof stood a collaboration of well-known creative and socially engaged personalities, including urban planners Cornelis van Eesteren and Jakoba Mulder, building contractor Huibert van Saane, architects Jacob Dunnebier and Johannes F. Berghoef, garden architect Mien Ruys and industrial designer Piet Zwart.

Above all, we are talking about a plan for the Amsterdam of the future – in an old city like Amsterdam, not an easy undertaking.”
Cornelis van Eesteren, urban planner and co-designer the Expansion Plan Landlust

“A residential neighbourhood must be designed in such a way that community life can develop; there must be cohesion between the residents. It is socially desirable; the common good will benefit from it.”
Jakoba Mulder, urban planner, designed the green spaces around the Geuzenhof

The creator of Geuzenhof, Huibert van Saane, also believed that nature was a social enrichment and integrated two generous communal gardens into his estate. For their design, he commissioned garden architect Mien Ruys, who later achieved international renown. It was her first social housing project.

Preserving architectural heritage
In the 1970/80s, the property is taken over by various companies and quickly sold off again. The administration is outsourced and the sale of social housing begins. The Geuzenhof is poorly maintained and threatens to fall into disrepair. Thanks solely to the persistent efforts of its residents, the estate was completely renovated in the 1990s. The residents asked the city council for financial support, insisted on the monumental, historical value of the housing complex and thus equipped the Geuzenhof for the future.
Since 2014, the entire Geuzenhof complex and the gardens are municipal monuments.

Renewing monumental green
The gardens of the Geuzenhof complex are its centrepiece. As Mien Ruys said, the garden is a process and never finished – so their ongoing maintenance is of particular importance. The Geuzenhof 2 garden (4700 m2) underwent a redesign around 2000.

“Community gardens can bring great social improvement especially in working-class neighbourhoods.”

“The garden is a process.”
Mien Ruys, garden architect of the Geuzenhof gardens

In 2018 the garden commission of the Geuzenhof 1 garden (8300 m2) initiated a redevelopment that was realised in 2022-2023.
Therefore the process line of Geuzenhof now includes Copijn, Utrecht (NL). Copijn who themselves have a long history in the field of landscape architecture created the detailed plans for the redevelopment of the garden and continue to take care of the maintenance in the coming years.

Accumulation of topical issues and a cinematic cosmos
Through Geuzenhof, more than 100 years of Dutch history can be experienced. It is a cosmos that reflects political, urban development and social changes and illustrates the creation of green projects in the city. The complex and gardens offer an accumulation of a number of current topics: urban planning, social housing concepts, (garden) architecture, preservation of cultural, green heritage and citizen participation.
In addition, the living together of the different residents in Geuzenhof provides cinematic plots and sometimes resembles a soap opera.

The results of my research will be translated into a complex web publication on The Other Interface, the new collection platform of the National Collection for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning. I will also translate my research into an exhibition.

Follow my research project on Instagram

The research is made possible with support from Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie and Iona Stichting.

In the early 19th century the Geuzenhof site is a moorland landscape, Kostverlorenvaart-canal, ca. 1825-1850, Amsterdam (NL)
In the early 1920s, the area where Geuzenhof would later be built was still wasteland.
To the west of Amsterdam, the city stopped abruptly at the corner of Witte de Withstraat/ Jan Evertsenstraat.

Geuzenhof is an interdisciplinary, collaborative long-term effort of professionals and residents, 1931-present

Today, Geuzenhof consists of two owners’ associations – Geuzenhof 1 and 2.
The map shows the entire complex in 1941.
Geuzenhof 1 with the garden architecture by Mien Ruys, 1935.
Willem de Vlugt, Mayor of Amsterdam (left), visits the newly completed Geuzenhof with officials. Building contractor Huibert van Saane (right) guides the group through the communal garden, 1 August 1935.
Demolition of the buildings at Admiraal De Ruijterweg 32-34 to create a breakthrough to Willem de Zwijgerlaan.
The ‘unfinished’ Geuzenhof complex is visible in the background, 1938.
Festivities for the residents in the communal garden of the Geuzenhof (today Geuzenhof 1), 1930s.
The mural on the facade of the completed Geuzenhof (today Geuzenhof 2) shows a motif
of a breastfeeding mother and the inscription ‘Built in the war year 1940’.
The completed Geuzenhof on the left (today Geuzenhof 2), 1946. On the right, the Oranjehof, a high-rise building exclusively for single working women, also built by Huibert van Saane, in 1942.
Demonstration in Amsterdam West against 6% rent increase, 1969.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Geuzenhof passed through the hands of various investors and became increasingly dilapidated.
In 1992 the whole complex was finally renovated.

In 2018, the Geuzenhof 1 garden commission initiated a redevelopment of their garden.
The pond by Mien Ruys (left, 1935) was replaced by a new pond by Copijn Landscape Architects (right, 2024).

Geuzenhof 1 garden after the redevelopment
by Copijn Landscape Architects, 2022-2024.

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