• Steven Heller

An Old New Design School

Hendrikus Theodorus (H. Th.) Wijdeveld (1885 – 1987) was known for his architectural approach to typography in the Dutch design magazine Wendingen. He was a member of the ‘Architecture et Amicitia’ society, established by members of the Amsterdam School in 1855 – they were passionate about decorative design.

Between 1916 and 1918 the group founded a magazine to discuss contemporary architecture, illustration and design. Wijdeveld became the editor and designer of Wendingen, which means turnings or changes. The covers of the magazine (along with the contents) evidenced the eclecticism of the era but also the shifts from decorative to functional design. Even El Lissitzky designed a signature Constructivist cover.

During the 1930s, Wijdeveld founded “Elckerlyc,” a school for arts and architecture, with workshops on architecture, decorative painting, garden architecture, interior architecture, technique and design of stage and scenery, and typography. (The name derives from a Dutch morality play written around 1470, and means “everyman.”) Wijdeveld’s distinctive modern building is still recognizable today in some parts of the greatly enlarged, building complex at Renova, which is the headquarters for the Rosicrucians in The Netherlands. According to their documents, Wijdeveld had plans to extend Elckerlyc and to convert it into a cultural center. The war intervened. In 1945 Wijdeveld emigrated to the USA and in November of the same year the  Rosicrucians bought Elckerlyc for their Conference Centre.

Prior to its demise, Wijdeveld produced a program/catalog, circa 1937, printed by Joh. Enschedé en Zn in Haarlem. Although low-impact in its functional design, after examining the facilities and the programs, who wouldn’t want to enroll?

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