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Architectural History

The research programme of the Architectural History group at VU Amsterdam focuses on the study of architecture, urban planning and landscape architecture and the related heritage issues in an international perspective.

The group has a clear profile in the combination of innovative historical research of the Dutch situation in confrontation with international scientific approaches. This translates, among other things, into the presence of a relatively large network and a considerable number of PhD students and external PhD students.

In the field of architectural history, VU Amsterdam occupies a recognised position as a research centre and training institute. Within the VU, the group is strongly represented in the teaching of the bachelor's programme Media, Art, Design and Architecture (MKDA) and the master's specialisations Architectural History (Dutch) and Heritage Studies. The group distinguishes itself in architectural history by its research focus on the thematic relationships between architecture and heritage in their current and historical dynamics, with attention to architecture, urban planning and theory of the early modern and modern periods.

Our research is housed in the interdisciplinary, interfaculty research institute CLUE+, which stands for the history and heritage of Cultural Landscape and Urban Environment, responsible for 'History and Design. Handbook for dealing with cultural heritage' (2010, ed. Koos Bosma and Jan Kolen), and has its own scholarly publication series Landscape and Heritage Studies (Amsterdam University Press).


Some of our current research projects:

  • Research into architectural culture, in particular of the long eighteenth century, recent publication: Passion and Control. Dutch Architectural Culture of the Eighteenth Century (Ashgate 2016, Freek Schmidt
  • Architecture and representation in early modern Europe, with an emphasis on Italy. PhD research into the illustrated manuscripts of the Spanish painter Juan AndrĂ©s Ricci de Guevara (1600-1681) (Martijn van Beek)
  • Views on modernising the landscape in Dutch landscape architecture of the 1960s and 1970s (Imke van Hellemondt)
  • Building in the shrinking city. Renovation and demolition in the urban network of Holland (1670-1830) (dissertation research Minke Walda)
  • Imperial Places. Built manifestations of imperial culture in Europe, c. 1850-1950 (dissertation research Miel Groten, in collaboration with Chair of Political History)
  • Imagination, Visualization and Architecture: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol from 1919 until 2006 (dissertation research Iris Burgers)
  • The spatial intentions of Louis Napoleon for the Kingdom of Holland 1806-1810 (dissertation research Esther Starkenburg)
  • Architecture, Meaning and Heritage Issues of the Railway Station on Java, Indonesia, 1867-1942 (dissertation research Harmilyanti Sulistyani)

Team members Architectural History

Prof. dr. Freek Schmidt
Freek Schmidt is an architectural historian, professor of history of architecture and the living environment at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and advisor in the field of spatial quality in Amsterdam and for MOOI Noord-Holland. His most recent book is Passion and Control. Dutch Architectural Culture of the Eighteenth Century (Ashgate 2016). He regularly publishes nationally and internationally on the built environment of the early modern and modern era. From 2002 to 2008 and from 2012 to mid-2020 he was editor of the Bulletin KNOB. He is closely involved in the teaching of the Master's program in Architecture History, which focuses on the history and topicality of the living environment. 

Dr. Iris Burgers
Iris Burgers is an architectural historian and works as a lecturer and researcher at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her research focuses on the way in which the imagination of our everyday surroundings influences both the thinking about and the design of these spaces. In 2021, she defended her thesis entitled Imagination, Visualization and Architecture: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol from 1919 until 2006 at the Vrije Universiteit. She also teaches for the Bachelor of Media, Design, Art and Architecture (MKDA), the Master of Architectural History (Architectuurgeschiedenis) and the Master Heritage Studies. She focuses specifically on architectural history and theory of the twentieth century. 

Dr. Imke van Hellemondt
Imke van Hellemondt is researcher and lecturer in architectural history at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Besides, she is Chief Article Editor for the Journal of Landscape Architecture and member of NELA (Network of European Landscape Architecture Archives). The core theme of her research is nature-culture relationships in Dutch landscape design since the nineteenth century. More particularly, she focusses on landscape transformations based on ideas about ecology, sustainability, resilience, innovation and technology, aesthetics and ethics and on the relationship between science, humanities and design.  

Martijn van Beek
Martijn van Beek is an architectural historian and works as a researcher and lecturer at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His interdisciplinary research focuses on the function of architecture as the bearer of a wide range of ideas and as a means of anchoring, implementing and driving innovation. His approach is not limited to the built environment, but also includes the study of the design process and conceptualisation of architecture. His research is closely related to and looks for common ground with the history of science, the history of ideas and art history. As a lecturer, he teaches the history and theory of early modern architecture, urban planning and garden and landscape architecture, particularly in Italy and Spain.

Minke Walda MA
Minke Walda MA is a PhD student and lecturer at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She is working on a dissertation about the spatial transformation of a selection of shrinkage cities in Holland in the long eighteenth century (Working title: Building in the shrinking city. Renovation and demolition in the urban network of Holland (1670-1830). Through an analysis of the spatial strategies of building owners, contractors and governments, she examines the redevelopment of the urban living environment in a period of decline. In addition to her work at the VU, she is a member of the Advisory Committee on Cultural History in Leiden.    

Martijn van Beek MA
Miel Groten, MA
Ir. Harmilyanti Sulistyani
Minke Walda, MA

Drs. Esther Starkenburg