Bijenkorf is a household name. Originally established in Amsterdam by Simon Goudsmit in 1870 as an haberdashery shop, it grew into a luxury department store after 1900. When it was completed in 1926, the branch in The Hague was the largest department store in the country and the largest building in the city. This second branch was to surpass the first in Amsterdam, built in 1915. In contrast to the traditional architecture of the Amsterdam building, the shop in The Hague was to become a paragon of innovation in the style of the Amsterdam School. This architectural movement put aesthetics before construction.
Leading architects competed for the contract with their sketches. In the end, the Bijenkorf board chose the design by Amsterdam architect Piet Kramer. During construction, Kramer worked with no fewer than nineteen artists for the realisation of, among other things, building plastic, stained-glass windows, woodcarving, furniture and carpeting. This resulted in a 'Gesamtkunstwerk' that is regarded as one of the masterpieces produced by this idealistic collaboration between various art disciplines in the Netherlands.
Characteristic of The Hague's Bijenkorf are the rounded façade on the corner of Grote Markt and Wagenstraat and the long, undulating wall surface, which is interrupted by tall, vertical, convex strips of windows. The red brick façade sections are non-load-bearing, but are attached to an internal concrete skeleton. Natural stone details and sculptures embellish the façade. These are works by sculptors such as Johan Polet, John Raedecker and Hildo Krop. They depict themes such as transport, trade and the four elements. By Krop, for example, there is a corbel on the side of the Wagenstraat with three porters and a steamboat. He also made the man holding up a honeycomb. On the right, a basket of braided reeds is depicted. And on the left is the text: ' T'is de raat what it's all about. Which means: 'It's not about the outside but about the inside, because in De Bijenkorf everything is for sale'.
* Hildo Krop, digital knowledge centre