The Academy of Architecture started in 1908 with the course for Secondary and Higher Architecture Training, organized by the Amsterdam Architects' association Architectura et Amicitia. In 1916 followed the establishment of the Academy of Architecture Amsterdam. Since 1987, the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture has been the 'Faculty of Architecture' at the Amsterdam University of the Arts (AHK).
The Academy of Architecture is located in the center of Amsterdam in the former Oude Zijds Huiszittenhuis and in the adjacent warehouses, the Arsenal. The building was designed in 1654 by Willem de Keyser, son of Hendrik de Keyser, and is now a national monument. In the past it has served as 'aalmoesseniershuis', as a warehouse of the artillery, and as a municipal office. From 1946 the building is rented out to the Academy of Architecture.
All services and facilities are housed in the building. There are 15 classrooms and workspaces, a model workshop, a library and an auditorium.
One hundred and one years ago – to be precise, on Monday October 5th 1908 – the course in Secondary and Higher Architectural Training began with fifty students. A three-year evening course, organised by the association Architectura et Amicitia, met the capital’s need for a solid professional training course in the field of architecture. The explosive growth of Amsterdam after the second half of the nineteenth century had led to an unprecedented growth of building activity and the emergence of a serious shortage of qualified personnel. The course was explicitly intended for students who were already engaged in practice. This educational model has always been the basis of the course.
Big names like Berlage, Cuypers, Kromhout and Kalf were not only involved in the setting up of the course, but also assumed responsibility for part of the syllabus as tutors. The course was taught in the building of the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten (fine arts). A prolonged discussion on whether to bring the course under the aegis of the Rijksacademie in order to have all forms of art under one roof was eventually settled in 1915 when the course was vested in an independent association: the association for Secondary and Higher Architectural Training (VHBO). In the meantime the duration of the course was extended from three to four years.
From the late 1920s the VHBO came under increasing pressure. As a result of the economic malaise, subsidies were withdrawn or reduced. Also the highly negative reviews of graduation projects supervised by Duiker in 1925-1926, in the spirit of the Modernist Nieuwe Bouwen movement, made matters even worse. The 1930s were therefore a period of review and restructuring.
In the postwar period the polarisation of the 1930s was replaced by the search for factors of cohesion. The number of student swelled and the first course after the end of the war attracted a record number of students. Hence the VHBO was given premises of its own in the former Huiszittenhuis facing the Waterlooplein, where the Academy is still located. From then on it was referred to as the Academy of Architecture, which became its official name in 1965.
At the end of the 1950s the Academy found itself in the international limelight when Aldo van Eyck was teaching there. He expounded his own ideas and projects in the periodical Forum, whose editorial address was the same as that of the Academy, as well as publishing the work of students and tutors like Hertzberger, Blom, Dam and Van Stigt. It can therefore be claimed that at the time the Academy was the breeding ground of Dutch Structuralism.
The Academy was not immune to the wave of democratisation at the end of the 1960s. Students demanded more participation. Eventually the board and tutors agreed to changes in the syllabus. In fact, in the end the entire syllabus was abolished and the blank timetable was introduced. The diploma also lost its importance. Anyone who felt the need could decide to take the diploma. Once again the quality of the course was raised for discussion.
In the 1980s the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture was unable to continue on its own and was incorporated in the Amsterdam University of the Arts as a post-bachelor institute in 1987.
The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed a number of highlights. The Academy course was definitively recognised as a master course in 2003. The Academy is thereby nationally and internationally recognised as a professional master institute on a par with the universities. The new diplomas Master of Architecture, Master of Urbanism and Master of Landscape Architecture provide direct access to the register of architects.
In 2007 the fiftieth anniversary of the Urbanism faculty was celebrated in the entirely renovated Academy premises facing the Waterlooplein. And in 2008 numerous festivities were held to celebrate the Academy’s centenary