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New Construction Architecture - Miniature Sheet

Miniature Sheet
GBP £7.77
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Technical details
  • 17.09.2018
  • Ariënne Boelens, Rotterdam
  • Joh. Enschedé Security Print, Haarlem, Netherlands
  • Offset
  • cyan, magenta, yellow and black
  • Stamp Size: 36 x 25mm, Sheet Size: 108 x 150mm
About New Construction Architecture

On 17 September 2018, PostNL will issue the stamp sheet New Construction Architecture, with ten stamps in five different designs. The stamps are dedicated to New Construction, a movement in architecture which was especially popular in the Netherlands between the two World Wars. The stamps feature black and white pictures of five buildings with different functions from cities across the Netherlands, designed by different architects. These five buildings are: the Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam by Lendert van der Vlugt and Johannes Brinkman (1931), the Zonnestraal ("Sunbeam") sanatorium in Hilversum by Jan Duiker and Bernard Bijvoet (1928), the Coöperatie De Volharding office building in The Hague by Jan Buijs (1928), the Schunck Glaspaleis ("Glass Palace") department store in Heerlen by Frits Peutz (1933) and the houses on Erasmuslaan in Utrecht by Gerrit Rietveld (1931). The stamps bear the denomination 1 for mail up to 20g destined for delivery in the Netherlands. The design was produced by Ariënne Boelens from Rotterdam.

New Construction is a functionalist movement in architecture which emerged in the early twentieth century and peaked between the two World Wars. The design was not based on monumentality, but on the function of the building and the requirements of its users. Modern materials such as concrete and recently developed steel structures were used in efficient, hygienic buildings. The functional floor plan featured flexibly partitionable spaces to make the building look open and airy, in contrast with the traditional, closed building blocks. The aim was to create a healthy living environment with fresh air and lots of sunlight.

New Construction mainly played a role between 1916 and 1935. Its characteristics are functionality, a lack of decoration, the use of modern techniques and modern materials (concrete, steel and glass). The architects felt that the beauty of a building was achieved by means of pure proportions, symmetry and repetition. New Construction can be recognised by: flat roofs, white plastered façades, light (with artificial light at night), air and space (efficient layout).

The ten stamps on theNew Construction Architecturestamp sheetlet feature black and white pictures of five characteristic buildings designed in accordance with the New Construction philosophy from the interwar period. Two pictures are shown of each building: a general view and a detail of the architectural drawing or floor plan. The two pictures on each stamp are separated from each other by a black vertical bar with typography in yellow ochre. The postage value 1, directly to the left of the bar, has the same colour. The thin yellow ochre lines in the large pictures indicate the contours or light lines characteristic of the architecture. Coloured areas, also in yellow ochre, have been used for the tabs next to the stamps. These areas contain the name of the building, the place, the year of completion and the name of the architect or architects. The name of the stamp sheetlet, together with a short text on the nature of New Construction, can be found on the top edge of the sheet. The bottom edge of the sheet offers space for the article number, the barcode and the PostNL and Het Nieuwe Instituut logos. Except for the picture of Schunck department store by Atelier Cohnen, the visual materials for this stamp sheet are from the archives of this Rotterdam-based museum for architecture, design and digital culture. The Schunck picture was made available by the Rijckheyt centre for regional history. FF Din Round Pro (Albert-Jan Pool, 2011) and SS Adec (Serge Shi, 2011) were used for the typography.

The New Construction Architecture stamp sheetis the second sheet in the architecture series issued by PostNL. The first stamps, from 2017, were dedicated to the iconic buildings from the period of reconstruction after World War II. The new stamps highlight New Construction, which hit its peak between the two World Wars. Just like the first stamp sheet, the new sheet for 2018 was designed by Ariënne Boelens from Rotterdam. She was pleasantly surprised when she received the telephone call. "The first thing I said was: this is fantastic. It's something you hope for, of course, but you can never be sure. The next thing I thought was: that's a pretty tough task because these two architectural movements are related. You may come across the same architects, such as Oud and Rietveld. But even though they are closely related, there are essential differences between the two movements. For the design of these new stamps, I used the same basic elements as I did for the reconstruction architecture, but adapted them to the principles of New Construction.”


Boelens worked in close cooperation with Het Nieuwe Instituut to select the buildings and the accompanying visual material. This Rotterdam-based museum boasts a unique archive with a huge amount of information about Dutch architecture. Boelens: “While the institute was looking for material in the archives, I was exploring the design. Normally, I first examine the contents in detail before I even start thinking about a design. In this case, it was the other way around. New Construction is a very functional architectural movement. Without decoration, but with modern materials and pure proportions. What stands out for me is the vast amount of glass, the transparency and the light lines. This is even reflected in the dark, so night photography was indeed an option. I abandoned that concept, however, when I found out that there were only wonderful pictures of some buildings in the dark and not of others. And I only wanted to work with pictures taken at that time.”

Kill your darlings, once again

Together with Het Nieuwe Instituut, Boelens drew up a long list of roughly twenty buildings, with fascinating examples of New Construction. “The list of course featured iconic buildings such as the Van Nelle Factory, the Zonnestraal ("Sunbeam") sanatorium, het Witte Dorp ("the White Village"), Café de Unie and De Witte Dame ("The White Lady"), but also a number of buildings that were less obvious. I wanted to show a broad range in my selection. With different architects, different types of buildings spread across the Netherlands, well-known and unknown examples and so on. I couldn't use all twenty of them. So, once again, it was kill your darlings,a process that was just as radical as with the first stamp series. What made it even more difficult was that I could pick ten buildings back then, and only five now.”

Five wonderful buildings

Each stamp consists of two images. A large picture of the building taken from a low standpoint, which makes the façade especially dominant, is shown on the left. A detail from an architectural drawing or floor plan of the building in question can be seen on the right. Boelens: "These drawings clearly show the kind of lightness that the architects aimed for. Of course, they are wonderful buildings, all five of them. The Van Nelle Factory stands out because of its abundance of glass. And because the building is so ornamental, even though it lacks 'ornaments'. Just like the Van Nelle Factory, the Zonnestraal sanatorium is another must-have example. Also because it was designed as a small village and, in line with the spirit of the age, with the purpose of treating patients suffering from tuberculosis in a healthy environment and socially reintegrating them. The Volharding office in The Hague was chosen because this building, which looks so stern in the daytime, could turn into a feast of light at night. The same goes for the Schunck department store, the glass palace in Heerlen designed by architect Frits Peutz. There is quite a remarkable story behind this building. It was designed as a covered market with four floors, with the Schunck family living on the two top floors. Finally, I also wanted to show the extraordinary houses that were built at that time. I deliberately left out the very well-known Rietveld-Schröder house in Utrecht, and I opted instead for the less well-known, but maybe even more charming, housing blocks Rietveld built on Erasmuslaan behind this house.

Pure black and white

For the images, Boelens used original photographs and drawings from the time of or just after completion. “Of course, the archive photos had yellowed considerably over the years. This is why I reworked them and restored them to pure black and white. You then often add a touch of yellow to prevent the images from looking too cold. I did not do that here because of the important role of white plaster in New Construction. In the typography, I also paid homage to the twenties by using a font in a style that was very popular at the time. A bit bombastic, with many combinations of bold, fine and double lines. It took me lots of time and work to retain this effect in stamp size, but it gives the stamps a powerful appearance, while the buildings on the stamp sheet have a clear connection. I could even clearly see this on the drawings from the archive. For example, architect Peutz used the same mushroom-shaped pillars for the Heerlen department store as Van der Vlugt and Brinkman did for the Rotterdam-based Van Nelle Factory."

About the designer

Ariënne Boelens (1973) lives and works in Rotterdam from Ariënne Boelens office, an agency with a variable team of (freelance) designers. Boelens was trained as a graphic designer at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, graduating in 1996. From 1996 till 1999, she was a co-founder and member of the Flink designer collective. Boelens has been working in the cultural sector as an independent designer since 1999. In the last few years, she has broadened her scope to include, among other things, designing exhibitions, activities in the area of social design and an advisory role in the area of design for commissioning parties. Her more recent work includes commissions for, among others, the municipality of Schiedam, Museum Rotterdam, Stichting Behoud Moderne Kunst (SBMK), the HotTug, the Rotterdamse Salon and the National Museum of Education (Nationaal Onderwijsmuseum). She designed the stamps for National Card Weeks(2005), The Netherlands and Beyond: Netherlands Antilles & Aruba)(2008), The Netherlands and Beyond: Brazil(2009), The Netherlands and Beyond: Suriname(2010), Architecture Reconstruction (2017) and the catalogue for the Art by mail exhibition (2006).

About the design

Van Nelle Factory, Rotterdam, 1931

Commissioned by the Erven de wed. J van Nelle, producer of coffee, tea and tobacco, the Van Nelle Factory was designed by the architectural firm Brinkman & van der Vlugt. Construction took place between 1925 and 1931. The Van Nelle Factory became a World Heritage site in 2014. The Van Nelle Factory comprises a number of building sections that are interconnected by footbridges. The centrally located eight-storey tobacco factory is 220 metres high. The roof of this part of the building features a round glass tea room. Adjacent to the tobacco factory are the coffee factory (five floors) and the tea factory (three floors). An office building at the entrance stands out due to its curved shape.

Zonnestraal sanatorium, Hilversum, 1928

This convalescent home for patients suffering from tuberculosis consists of a main building, two pavilions for patients, five workshops and a servants' lodge. With the patient pavilions on either side, the main building is centrally located on the 120-hectare grounds. The sunlight and the unobstructed view determined the orientation and site for these three buildings. The buildings accommodated 128 patients. The main building consists of three strips on ground floor level, interconnected by a cross-shaped floor layout. The building has a slim cast concrete load-bearing structure with moment-reducing overhangs. The façades have mainly been made of steel glass fronts.

Coöperatie De Volharding, The Hague, 1928

The office of Coöperatie De Volharding was designed by Jan Buijs as an innovative monument of light. The skeleton of the office is made of reinforced concrete, allowing for non-load-bearing façades. The parapets were fitted with high light boxes, which were equipped with advertising texts by inserting zinc letters and numbers in the boxes.

Glaspaleis department store, Heerlen, 1935

The Glaspaleis in Heerlen was built in 1934-1935 as a shop for the firm Schunck. The commissioning party, Peter Schunck, and the architect, Frits Peutz, both envisaged a design of a market. But this had to be a market that would be protected from the elements all year round. The result was still a modern-looking building, made from concrete and glass. The first four floors were part of the department store. The top two floors served as living quarters for the Schunck family.

Residential houses, Utrecht, 1931

The four-house block was built in 1930-1931 using steel profiles, brick walls and wooden floors. Because of the white plastered walls, the structure looked more modern than it actually was. Long strips of white walls and horizontal steel and glass fronts were constructed underneath the flat roof. Unlike the Rietveld-Schröder house nearby, the façades were not coloured. All measurements were in full metres, which was extremely practical. Due to the relatively small gardens, balconies and roof terraces were added to the houses. Galleries were created by indenting the upper floor somewhat on both sides. The horizontal construction with roof terraces is reminiscent of an ocean steamer with cabins opening onto decks with steel railings.