“A palace for the working class” it was called, this remarkable housing complex in the south of Amsterdam. Built in the early 1900’s by the socialist corporation ‘De Dageraad’ – The Dawning -, it features fanciful houses and castle-like apartment buildings in brick, full of unexpected nooks and crannies. Blue collar workers, until then hardly good enough for dilapidated housing schemes, were to live here. Elevation of the working classes was the dream: better houses would turn them automatically into better people.
In 2001, the complex was voted best social housing project of the 20th century in The Netherlands. Dutch film maker Beatrijs Bergmans, who lives in the complex herself, dedicated this movie to it. Not only to celebrate its amazing architectural beauty, but also to find out about the ideals that helped create it. Does better housing indeed produce better people? Residents from past and present reflect on this. Architectural historian Vladimir Stissi highlights the extraordinary history of the complex, while Dutch top architect Herman Hertzberger ‘reads’ its formal language: how brick communicates ideals.