Lost in the Work


It’s high time the work of the architect and urban planner Jakoba Mulder (1900–1988) received the attention it deserves. Mulder was one of the first women to graduate from the Institute of Technology in Delft with a civil engineering degree, in 1926, and she subsequently specialised in urban development. After a brief career as an architectural draughtsperson, Mulder went to work for the city of Delft as an adjunct engineer on the Zuid-Holland West regional development plan in 1928. In 1930, Mulder – who possessed what was then unique experience in urban planning – became the first female architect to take up a similar post in the city of Amsterdam’s urban development department.

She joined a core team made up of the department head and urban planner L.S.P. Scheffer (1887–1974), the designer Cornelis van Eesteren (1897–1988) and the academic researcher Th.K. van Lohuizen (1890–1956), who were working on a basic design for Amsterdam’s General Expansion Plan (Algemeen Uitbreidingsplan, or AUP). After the Second World War, it was Mulder who developed and elaborated the subplans. In 1952, she became the department’s chief architect, and in 1958, its first female head.

We have a general impression of her key projects, including the pre-war Amsterdamse Bos and the Beatrixpark, the courtyard parcelling in the post-war garden village Frankendaal and her contribution to the realization of the Westelijke Tuinsteden. The same can be said of her substantive spearheads, for example the importance of greenery and children’s play areas in neighbourhoods. Comprehensive research (in the archives and with Mulder the protagonist) has not taken place before and, as a result, insight into her specific contributions is lacking. In studies of the AUP and its specific subprojects, her work is mentioned only in passing.

Linda Vlassenrood is currently working on a PhD at Eindhoven University of Technology. It will discuss Mulder’s functioning and largely anonymous and mostly shared authorship as part and result of the substantive and political-administrative processes in the civil service. After all, highlighting Mulder’s personal contribution only makes sense when it is described as interacting with other individuals, departments, committees and processes in the municipal administration.

The research is supported by the Creative Industries Fund NL, the Jaap Harten Foundation and the city of Amsterdam’s Planning and Sustainability department and Monuments and Archeology department.

Jakoba Mulder and Cornelis van Eesteren at the urban development department, october 1956. Photo: Stadsarchief Amsterdam

Willem den Ouden, portrait Jakoba Mulder, 1970/71. Collection: Amsterdam Museum

Jakoba Mulder introduced the courtyard layout in the garden city of Frankendaal in 1949. Collection: Stadsarchief Amsterdam

Paddling pool Gibraltarstraat, 1952. Photo: Stadsarchief Amsterdam