in architecture

Structuralism is a movement characterized by buildings with a geometric structure composed of often small units that are related to the human dimension.

Maquette Centraal Beheer Apeldoorn
Maquette Centraal Beheer Apeldoorn

A building should be more than a sum of functions, architecture should make human activities possible and promote social contacts. An important aspect of structuralism is that the buildings are designed from smaller units, usually of the same shape, which repeat themselves in one way or another. The smaller units then have to do with the human size and of course together form a structure, as for example with a crystal lattice of a mineral, but with more freedom in the overall form and with common areas to emphasize the social aspect. A characteristic of some structuralist buildings is the use of cubes.

Piet Blom, Woningenwoud (1972-1977), Helmond
© Piet Blom, Woningenwoud (1972-1977), Helmond

Structuralist projects share the designers' appetite for experimentation and the pleasure of designing homes and offices in a particularly spatial way. Voids, split-level sections, inner streets, flexible floor plans, affordable and characterful homes, attention to traditional details and honest, natural-looking materials are shared ingredients of this special architectural period.

David Zuiderhoek, Cementrum, Den Bosch (1976-1978)
© David Zuiderhoek, Het Cementrum, Den Bosch, 1976-1978
Piet Blom
© Piet Blom, Dutch Cube Buildings, Helmond, 1974-1975


It was architect Herman Hertzberger who introduced the term structuralism in 1966 when presenting his competition design for the Valkenswaard Town Hall.

Portrait of Herman Hertzberger

After that, the term was gradually adopted in the professional literature and was described as an architectural movement from the 1959-1980 period. In structuralist buildings, small-scale, mixed functions, communality, equal social relations and adaptability by users come together.

3D Model of Centraal Beheer Apeldoorn by Herman Hertzberger
© Herman Hertzberger, Centraal Beheer (1973), Apeldoorn

The designers responded with this to the separation of functions and the planned and technocratic building practice that were characteristic of the reconstruction of the Netherlands after the Second World War. They found it too sterile, too one-sided and too rigid and they formulated a poetic and more humane alternative, of which the article 'The story of another thought' by Aldo van Eyck in the magazine Forum (1959) was an important driver.

aldo van eyck - herman hertzberger - aldo va eyck - herman hertzberger

examples - examples - examples - examples - examples - examples

Amsterdam Orphanage

Amsterdam Orphanage Bird Eye View. Geometric Kasbah

Centraal Beheer

Man working at Centraal Beheer Office designed by Herman Hertzberger.


Plans for the Rozendaal Park buildings. Beautiful half moon shapes.