HISTORY OF THE MUSEUM OF UNIONS (so called the Burcht)
The first successful general strike in the Diamond Industry (1894) led to the creation of the General Federation of Dutch Diamond Workers.(GFDW) Initiators were Henri Polak (1863-1943) and Jan van Zutphen (1863-1958). This was the first ‘modern’ trade union in the Netherlands.
“The Burcht” is the oldest union building in the Netherlands. Architect Berlage (1856-1934) was commissioned to build the headquarters of the GFDW at Avenue Henri Polak 9 in Amsterdam.
In 1900, “The Burcht” , inspired by the Italian folk palaces, was in use. In 1904 the Dutch painter R.N. Roland Holst made twelve murals in the large meeting room. Polak wanted to achieve with this building a monument to the labor movement.
After 1920, Amsterdam lost its leading position in the diamond industry to Antwerp, from that moment it went downhill with the industry and the union. Since 1991 the Trade Union Museum is housed in the building.
The Federal Council Chamber is the largest meeting room in the building, up to 100 people can have meetings in this beautiful room.
The boards of the Foundations “The Burcht” and Preservation Diamond, explored the possibility of a thorough and comprehensive restoration of the building. They choose as first step for a feasibility study with the aim to understand:
1. the scope of a proper restoration of the shell of the building (surgery, costs);
2. the options in dealing with the layout and finishing of the interior;
3. the necessary steps and options in building physics and systems (especially air, climate control);
4. the total cost (with variants);
5. how to continue the process.
During the feasibility study, in February 2007, 2 asbestos surveys were done in the basement. This research showed asbestos above the ceilings in the basement. This was, end of 2007, cleaned up as quick as possible. The asbestos sanitation was in fact the start of the construction phase.
The board had chosen to match the cultivation plans to a representative function.
The representative function of the building required that the circulation was geared to large groups (100 to 200 people). After considering many options for internal routing and discussions with Monument Care, the local Fire and Building department, a final draft was made on which the construction permit was granted.
Constructively the shell was good. Structural interventions were needed for a good water resistance and moisture regulation. The main interventions:
• Renewing the ground slab, and injection against rising humidity.
• Restoration and maintenance of facades and roof, with additional building physical measures (insulation, waterproofing and moisture permeability)
• Renewal double skylight construction. This combined well with the new ventilation system.
• The original interior was removed in many places and was damaged but seemed repairable (paneling, decorative walls, beams and ceilings). In some places reconstruction was possible and desirable, such as replacing the panels and lamps, with logical supplements.
• The armatures were to be restored.
•Quality impulses for (new) use: This was in addition to the necessary facilities serving ventilation, cooling, security and elevators, but also the complete isolation of the building shell. and all well equipped with proper sanitation. The dusty image of the building was shined up.
The preliminary and final design was realized by architect office J. van Stigt in Amsterdam.
In November 2007, Foundation Henry de Keijzer became the owner of “The Burcht”, they decided to do the finishing of the process themselves. The involvement of our office was completed in 2008.