by Ad Bercht
The reason for this exhibition
During the Second World War students in Delft were forced by the German occupiers to sign a fidelity declaration in order to be able to continue their studies. Students who refused to sign the declaration took the risk to be sent to Germany to do forced labour (the “Arbeitseinsatz”). One of the students who refused to sign lived with his parents in Wassenaar. During the war years he went into hiding elsewhere. When he returned to the family house after the war he found a collection of hand-outs written by Granpré Molière, professor at the Delft University of Technology, then still called the Technische Hogeschool (Technical College). Granpré Molière, who also lived in Wassenaar, had intended his letters on architecture to be a kind of written course. The documents were in a bad condition and therefore a copy was made by the sister of this architecture student. Recently these papers were given to our library, forming the immediate reason for this exhibition. The TU Delft library is also in the possession of a set of the original letters.
Who was Granpré Molière?
Marinus Jan Granpré Molière (1883-1972) studied architecture in Delft. In 1924 he became professor at the faculty, teaching architecture and urbanism, whilst at the same time also working in his own architectural office. Granpré Molière was a man with traditional ideas about architecture and urbanism. Buildings should have a clearly recognizable, humble form, based on universal, even ‘eternal’ standards. The notion of beauty was an important issue in his thoughts and teachings. Religion, in particular his conversion to Catholicism, further defined his ideas. The cultural climate at the Technische Hogeschool during these years was still very conservative and Granpré Molière played a central and influential role within the architectural debate. His theories formed the basis of the architectural movement which became known as the Delftse School. Of his designs, the garden city Vreewijk in Rotterdam is best known. Further projects included the town hall in Renkum and his master plan for the villages in the Noordoostpolder. After the war he was involved in the reconstruction of the centre of the city of Groningen.
One of Granpré Molière’s followers was the traditionalist architect Johannes Fake Berghoef. Together with other students he formed the Bouwkundige Studiekring (Architectural Study Circle). Granpré Molière was the chairman and meetings took place in his house. Later on Berghoef took the position of chairman.
After the war, once highly respected figures like Granpré Molière and Berghoef fell out of favour with the students because of their traditional ideas.
De Groep van Delft (The Group of Delft)
The conservative climate in Delft left no room for other opinions about architecture, leading a feeling of unease amongst certain students in the years before the Second World War. Around student Jan Albarda a group of like-minded students was formed, who wanted more more attention to other attitudes and approaches in architecture. In 1933 one of the members of the group held a speech, calling for the opening of new channels and for a move away from traditionalism. This manifesto is the last known activity of the group.
Some time ago a book was written about this shortlived movement, Jan Albarda en de Groep van Delft: moderniteit in een behoudende omgeving (Jan Albarda and the Group of Delft: modernity in a conservative environment). For more information about De Groep, also see the article published in Delta.