The Wibauthuis was a characteristic building in Amsterdam, located near the Rhijnspoorplein and the Wibautstraat.
The Wibauthuis was designed by architect Norbert Gawronski (1925) and the then Public Works Department of the City of Amsterdam. It was built during the sixties with a purpose to house the officials of the then municipal authorities: Building and Housing, the Housing Department and Public Works itself.For fast and easy construction prefab buildings were used for more projects, including Wibauthuis. One main reason for this was the lack of skilled builders and a prevailing housing shortage. This technique involved simple prefabricated parts manufactured in factories - from doors to concrete slabs. Each premade piece could then be brought to the construction site and put together quickly ultimately forming a whole new building. Wibauthuis set a standard for this kind of building format with vertically exposed concrete and repetitive facade elements.
The University of Amsterdam was the last owner of the building. Besides small, personal spaces leased out in Wibauthuis for different purposes such as Internet start-up companies. In early 2007 Wibauthuis came to an end when the property finally closed its doors to everyone. In October the same year it captured the final scrapping, as it no longer met the requirements for an education building today. Objections to the demolition were poor and wall insulation contained much asbestos (usual for the construction period).
Aesthetics: beautiful or ugly?
The building incited controversy straight from its completion, dividing experts and critics into two separate camps.
AgainstOne argument deemed the building ugly. It was compared with construction in Eastern Europe: concrete, grey and depressing. The property scored high as one of the ugliest building in surveys from the Amsterdam population. It is also sometimes argued that the aversion to the building came from an antipathy towards the users, Wibauthuis stood for many as a symbol of a government official bunker, from which the established order - uncritical and unchallengeable - supposed regeneration for the public.
ForOthers praised the building for its architectural simplicity and efficiency (office) device. They found an example of the typical 60s-offices, and then applied architectural style and materials. This architecture was often called 'optimistic'.
Public anger has arisen due to the swiftness of the demolition and has there has become increasingly louder protests against the demolition of the post-war, modernist buildings. Now some people think that a hole in the history of architecture is likely to occur.
The original plans for the building
During the nineties, three prominent government buildings lay vacant, including Wibauthuis. The survival of the premises was therefore uncertain; the University of Amsterdam purchased the three buildings. The intent was to turn the entire street into a boulevard of education in the future, and would fit perfectly in the aforementioned ensemble.
The plans changed, however, in favour of an even stronger concentration of education buildings. Over time these intentions were not suitable for Wibauthuis, being found unfit for future use and hence the need for a new building rose, and subsequently the desire to abort the existing plan. These plans led to major turmoil and brought the proponents of the properties into strife. Partly because the three former government buildings together were considered a unique architectural ensemble of postwar architectural styles but mainly because the municipal Office of Monuments nominated Wibauthuis as an official monument. This request was refused by the district East / Watergraafsmeer because of the alleged unsuitability as a school. A series of legal proceedings brought on by supporters and opponents of the property followed.
Ultimately, the court considered "the building nomination is a monumental status to get, and it is no monument, so demolition is permitted". A collective group of residents (an action committee called "King Kong" fought for the preservation of the Wibauthuis) fought against this ruling but the judge rejected it and demolition plans could continue and eventuated.
The University of Amsterdam leaves on the vacant land its new central building shelter. This new building consists of three parts: two school buildings and a building with students and starter homes. The whole area will be named 'Amstel Campus' after completion. At least three quarters of the educational activities will be housed there in due time.