A Dutch Architect in Siberia

Johannes Bernardus van Loghem

This story is about an outstanding Dutch architect, his daring projects and the architectural heritage he left in the Siberian city of Kemerovo.
Johannes Bernardus van Loghem
(19.10.1881 - 28.02.1940,
Haarlem, Holland)
The Red Architect
Johannes van Loghem was born October 19, 1881 in Haarlem, an old town near Amsterdam, in the family of a prosperous farmer who earned money by growing and selling tulips. In 1905, Van Loghem became one of the first students at the Delft University of Technology (Technische Hoogeschool in Delft), where he studied architecture. In 1909 he received a degree in engineering. As a student, he got interested in rowing and became an avid lifelong sportsman.


Haarlem is a port city some 16 kilometers west of Amsterdam with a population of about 150,000 people, which makes it the capital of the Province of Northern Holland. The name comes from the words Haaro-heim or Harulahem, which means "a sandy hill covered with trees".
Despite the fact that Van Loghem did not belong to the working class, the idea of a better society always appealed to him and he spoke out openly against unjust treatment of under-privileged social groups. Although the "red architect" sympathized with the socialist movement, he never joined the party.

After graduation, Van Loghem established himself as an independent architect in his native town of Haarlem and opened there an architectural firm of his own. He almost immediately started receiving a large number of orders mostly connected with the design of private houses. In 1911, Van Loghem married a talented textile designer, Bertha Neumeier, who received awards at the international exhibitions in Paris in 1925 and 1937 for her extraordinary leatherwork. Between 1912 and 1917 they had four children, whom they brought up in a creative atmosphere.

In 1912 the couple moved into a villa near the river Spaarne. The cottage was designed by the architect himself, and, like many of his early projects, it was made in the traditional style.

Villa "De Steenhaag"

Villa "The Stone Hedge" – J. B. van Loghem's own cottage on the river Spaarne in Haarlem.
Looking for a "normal house"
Before going to the USSR to implement his idealistic housing projects for workers, Van Loghem built about 25 private mansions in Holland, mostly in his home-town of Haarlem, where he found clients among his father's friends and business partners.

After 1916, Van Loghem's projects experienced the influence of innovative architecture, e.g. the style of the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959), the founder of the "organic architecture" philosophy. Its main concept was that building design should be based on harmony between people and their environment.

In his search of the ideal house formula, Van Loghem always appealed to "normal houses", where people would feel comfortable and, at some subconscious level, safe.

The interiors of the mansions were just as important to Van Loghem as their comfortable layout and beautiful facades. Each house he designed as a whole. For some buildings, the architect designed not only the interior decoration, but all the furniture as well. This is a distinctive feature of the representatives of the Amsterdam School movement, which Van Loghem joined early in his career.
The Amsterdam School is a Dutch stylistic trend in architecture and decorative art of the early 20th century that was part of the international Art Deco movement. Architects and artists of the Amsterdam School believed that workers had the right to live in houses that would be beautiful as well as of good quality. Their intention was to bring beauty to the life of the people via applied art and architecture.
Starting with 1917 the architect was very much taken by the idea of a garden city, which was popular in Europe in that time. Van Loghem was convinced that a worker family deserves a house of their own, however small, and with their own a garden. He believed that large apartment buildings were more suitable for single people or senior citizens. But even in his multi-apartment projects he paid paramount attention to the prospective tenants, their lifestyle and needs. By doing so, the architect tried to materialize his socialist ideas, giving an opportunity for ordinary workers to get comfortable and decent homes.

In addition to his architectural practice, Van Loghem participated in discussions about architecture and published a lot of articles. In 1916 – 1918 he worked as one of the editors for the Construction Weekly ("Bowkundig Weekblad"). In 1918 – 1925 he edited the famous architectural and art journal The Changes ("Wendingen"), where all major Dutch architects and artists published their works. And in 1919 he became one of the founders of the Union of Revolutionary Socialist Intellectuals.

Transformer Substations

One of Van Loghem's major customers was the K.E.M. Generating Company (Kennemer Electriciteits Maatschappij). In 1914 – 1919 he designed and built for them about 80 transformer substations in various areas of Holland. Van Loghem liked to design different models for electrical substation kiosks. All of them were built of bricks and were decorated with two tiled images: that of a guard dog, which indicated high voltage danger, and that of a crowing rooster, which symbolized sunrise and light.
Materials of the Future
As an architect, Van Loghem experienced different stages in his creative career. He started as a true representative of the Amsterdam School, but over time his projects took on an increasingly functional character.

In the early 1920s Van Loghem designed several complexes of economy-class residential buildings in Haarlem, among which there was the Rosenhage complex (1919 – 1922), the Tuinwijk Zuid (1920 – 1922) and the Patria (1922 – 1923).

These compounds were built within the framework of the Dutch state program for the construction of social housing that would be provided with modern sanitary facilities.

The Housing Law (1901) established norms and requirements that regulated the lighting, water supply and sewerage. The new construction plans included schools, churches, post offices, shops and playgrounds for children..

Tuinwijk Zuid (1922 г.)

Van Loghem's most prominent project of residential complexes is the experimental mass building complex of the Concrete Village District (Betondorp, 1922 – 1923) in Amsterdam. For this project he used concrete, which was most suitable for the construction of affordable social housing. This project completed his transition from traditionalism to the new style of functional architecture.

Betondorp – "The Concrete Village"

Van Loghem's social urban projects of the Betondorp in Amsterdam and the Tuinwijk Zuid in his hometown of Haarlem are most similar to the project he implemented in Kemerovo.
Johannes van Loghem was one of the leading Dutch architects of his time. Over the years he accumulated a lot of experience, especially in the construction of mass social housing. The architect was not afraid to experiment and was open to everything new. Due to his bold architectural solutions, socialist views and sympathy for the young Soviet State, Van Loghem was invited by his compatriot, engineer Sebald Rutgers to Siberia, to the town of Kemerovo (before 1932 known as Shcheglovsk) to participate in a unique international experiment of the Autonomous Industrial Colony Kuzbass ...
When in 1925 I was offered to take part in the construction in that country, I did not hesitate to abandon my work in Holland to make true what seemed impossible here.


In March 1926, Van Loghem arrived in the small Siberian town of Shcheglovsk.

Proletarians of all countries, unite!

Van Loghem accepted the invitation to go to the distant Siberia with joy and great enthusiasm as he was eager to take part in one of the most daring and ambitious projects of the international proletariat. The International Autonomous Industrial Colony Kuzbass started its activity in 1922 in Shcheglovsk at a coal mine near the village of Kemerovo.

The idea of the project arose in 1921 at the Third Congress of the Comintern. It belonged to several prominent representatives of the world socialist movement: Bill Heywood, Herbert Calvert and Sebald Rutgers, who was later appointed the director of the Colony. Such projects, according to the idea of the delegates, were supposed to speed up the restoration of the Russian economy. They presupposed the introduction of advanced American experience, delivery of modern imported equipment and the attraction of high-quality specialists from abroad. Vladimir Lenin put high hopes on the project and actively contributed to the foundation and functioning of the Colony.

International rally at the AIC Kuzbass main office building

By the time Van Loghem received his invitation in late 1925, the Colony had already achieved a great success. About 750 foreign specialists of 30 different nationalities and 5,000 Russian workers were working at its enterprises. American engineers had re-equipped and modernized its mines. The coke plant had been completed and commissioned under the leadership of German specialists. They had built the first city power plant and a modern agricultural farm to provide colonists with food.

However, there was one problem the management could not solve: the colony faced a severe housing crisis. The foreigners lived in the Communal House or rented rooms from local residents. Many Russian AIC workers had to live in mud huts. That's why Sebald Rutgers addressed Van Loghem, who a great specialist in the construction of workers' settlements.
Most workers lived underground, like moles. These underground dugouts were covered by mud roofs. The tenants of these houses were called "earthmen". Looking at the way they live, I decided that in one year no one will live in such bleak conditions.

View of Shcheglovsk

A "Dutch" village in Siberia

Van Loghem was appointed an architect at the Kuzbass administration and was to implement the housing program developed by the AIC. His task was to design workers' settlements with different house types for all the enterprises of the colony in Scheglovsk (renamed as Kemerovo in 1932), Prokopyevsk and Leninsk-Kuznetsk. In fact, it was one of the first projects for the construction of standard housing in Siberia, designed to relocate workers from unfit housing to modern apartments as soon as possible. Van Loghem had to solve a number of problems he encountered in the course of his work. One of the major issues was shortage or total absence of detailed maps of the terrain, so it was up to him to explore the territory and make sketches "en plein air".

Despite all the difficulties, it was necessary to start the construction immediately; therefore, the building process began the moment the architect completed the sketch. Van Loghem developed as many as 15 various types of economy-class houses. All of them were different but still had something in common. They represented an amazing combination of architectural styles and Van Loghem's recognizable artistic identity.

The residence Van Loghem designed for workers consisted of terraced blocked brick houses, which nowadays would be classified as "townhouses". This project clearly has a lot in common with the working class residence areas he constructed in his homeland. The blocked houses built wall to wall were something new for the locals, who expressed their dislike of such innovations. Referred to as "sausages", these houses were the first examples of comfortable housing with communal amenities in Kuzbas.

The remaining "sausage-houses" are on the List of Monuments of Architecture and Town Planning of Regional Importance.

The sausage-houses

The biggest issue Van Loghem had to face as the work progressed was a serious deficit of high-quality, modern building materials. Of course, the main building material in the area was wood. But Van Loghem, being an adherent of the "garden city" idea and an innovative architect, decided to preserve the pine forest that surrounded the territory of the mine and to build houses from brick, which was a new material for the locals.

He took a fundamental approach to the matter and sent clay samples from the bottom of the Tom' River to Holland for examination. Only after a positive evaluation arrived did they build several brick factories. But the introduction of new technologies into Siberian construction did not end there. The masonry of brick walls was also out of ordinary: it was the so-called "Gerard's brickwork" when the walls consist of two separate brick piers, connected with each other with iron hooks, and the space between the piers is filled with slag. The Dutch architect applied this technology to save materials.

For employees and specialists, Van Lohem designed several standard houses. For example, two-storeyed semi-detached houses with the brick ground floor and the timbered upper floor (type "D"). This house is remarkable for its bay windows that were designed to let more sunshine in. Another example is the typical Dutch four-family houses with mansard floors (type "C"). They were provided with electricity, running water, sewerage, bathrooms, and WC. Those, no doubt, were the most comfortable apartments of that time.

The remaining Van Loghem's houses to be found on the Red Hill are on the List of Monuments of Architecture and Town Planning of Regional Importance.
Houses for employees and specialists
Besides, the Dutch architect designed power stations, bathhouses, clubs, shops, schools, thereby continuing to follow the path he had chosen in Holland: to design not individual houses but whole residential areas, where even the smallest and seemingly insignificant detail would be part of an integrated, logically arranged space for life.
On the central square of the mine, I decided to build a school, a working club and a working cooperative. Since the central square was the highest point in the whole district, I built a large tower in the school building, upon which a large water tank was placed.
The school building of the Kemerovo Mine is one of the most interesting of the remaining Van Loghem's constructions in the region. It unites the functionalism of the 1920s, some features of the Amsterdam Architectural School and Russian building traditions. The ground floor of the school is made up of bricks, and the upper one is timber. In the central tower there was a huge water tank that supplied the neighborhood with water.

Today the building of the school is a Monument of Architecture of Regional Importance. In the Netherlands, it is listed in the register of Dutch Architectural Monuments Abroad.

The School of the Kemerovo Mine District

"I'm suffocating"
The "Siberian" period of Van Loghems life and career did not last long. Unfortunately, he arrived there only to see the last years of the AIC Kuzbass. After the death of Lenin, things went wrong for the foreigners. Administrative pressure on the Colony increased, the local officials criticized their methods of work and management, which was gradually replaced by the Russians. Van Loghem was criticized as well. His innovations were too unusual and were not accepted by the local officials. The architect tried to explain the need and the numerous benefits of his innovations in his article in the Kuzbass newspaper, but nobody bothered to listen to his arguments.

Up to mid-1927, despite all the criticism, Van Loghem still had some chance to work independently, but very soon his independence came to an end. He had to send his projects for approval to the building control bodies, which not only criticized them, but also had power to change and cancel. The increasing bureaucratization destroyed all possibilities of creative work, which made the situation unbearable for Van Loghem.
It is really suffocating here. I still manage to hold on somehow, because I must finish the work I started, but those who encounter the authorities, or rather their disdain, they really do suffer from this ... The methods of work are becoming increasingly disgusting. Almost no project has been completed, and if it has, then there is almost nothing left from the initial design...
Van Loghem loved Siberia, he wanted to stay in Kemerovo and planned to bring his family there, but when he realized that his projects would never become reality, he decided to move to some other region of Russia. He was invited to work in Novosibirsk, the Van Loghems were considering moving to Tomsk, Moscow or Nizhny Novgorod. Finally, concerned with the future of his children and unable to withstand the pressure of his relatives, the architect decided to leave Russia forever. In a letter to his friend he wrote:
I'm fed up with Russia and I'm leaving this very day. Everything here is run by a gang of lazy bureaucrats, and I simply need to breathe in some fresh air.
Van Loghem worked in Kuzbass from March 1926 up to September 1927; however, the "Dutch" period in Kemerovo architecture continued even after all the Dutch had left. Despite all the criticisms of his projects, Van Loghem's economy-class houses proved extremely effective in the face of chronic shortage of funds for construction. The local architects did not abandon brick, nor did they stop building blocked houses. Even some of his minor architectural elements, such as the bay window, were later widely used in other urban buildings. Hundreds of houses all over Kuzbass were built according to Van Loghem's projects. His principles of cheap housing for workers were respected even after his departure, which means that the Dutchman did manage to fulfill his main goal: he provided the Russian workers with good-quality housing for many years to come.


Functionalism is a movement in the architecture of the XX century that required strict correspondence of the building form to its functions. It is characterized by the use of achievements in science and technology (e.g. new materials), economical efficiency, ultimate simplicity of forms and absence of decor.
Post-Siberian Period
In September 1927, Van Loghem returned to Holland. He was disappointed and emotionally devastated because he had to leave his work in Siberia unfinished, and he had such high hopes for the country of the Soviets... After returning from the USSR, he founded his own architectural office in Rotterdam in 1928, but he mostly focused on the theoretical side of the architectural profession, developing and promoting the ideas of functional architecture.

He became a member of the Rotterdam architectural group "De Opbow" ("Construction"). In 1932, "De Opbow" officially merged with the Amsterdam Association of Dutch Architects "De 8". The amalgamation resulted in a new architectural journal called "De 8 en Opbouw". From 1932 until the day of his death Van Loghem remained the editor of the journal, which became the mouthpiece of the new architecture in the Netherlands.

In 1932 in Amsterdam Van Loghem published his book "The New Construction Buildings in the Netherlands", which became a manifesto of Dutch functionalism, Van Lognem himself being one of the brightest representatives of this movement. In addition, he was engaged in writing papers and lecturing. He also lectured on his work in Kuzbass, where he received valuable experience and established himself as an experimenter in architecture.
Sportfondsenbad Haarlem
Swimming Pool in Haarlem (1933 – 1934)
After returning to Holland, the architect had few orders: a swimming pool (Sportfondsenbad), a spa resort and several villas he built in functional style. It was mostly due to the economic recession, which was followed by a decline in construction. In 1931, Van Loghem took part in the famous competition for the best Palace of Soviets project in Moscow.

Johannes Bernardus Van Loghem passed away in Haarlem at the age of 58 on February 28, 1940, on the eve of the German occupation of Holland. Fearing persecution from the Nazis, his widow destroyed all the documents from the family archive related to his work in the Soviet Union.
Van Loghem treated his work with love and great dedication. Even after his ambiguous experience in Soviet Russia, he did not back down from his socialist beliefs, which in turn were reflected in his vision of architecture. He always advocated the renovation of architecture and modern technology. Many important technical and stylistic innovations that he applied have become a common phenomenon in architecture, in Russia as well.

Nowadays, Van Loghem's buildings (the "sausage-houses", the "houses for specialists" and the school) are architectural monuments at the museum-reserve "Krasnaya Gorka". The museum staff together with Dutch specialists have developed projects for preservation and renovation of these amazing buildings, which in themselves are a vivid illustration of the amazing, if not to say unique history of a small Siberian town were the world famous architect Johannes Bernardus van Loghem lived and worked 90 years ago.
Photo materials from museums' collections and thematic resources dedicated to Holand architecture were used when developing this website
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