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Foto: Daniël Rommens

P.C. Hoofthuis was often controversial from the beginning

Jazz Stofberg,
22 november 2022 - 15:17

Well into the 80s and 90s, it was a home for junkies and homeless people: the P.C. Hoofthuis on Spuistraat. Some call the building hideous because of its labyrinthine stairways. Yet the building, named after the seventeenth-century poet and playwright Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, is on the municipal monument list. Part one of a two-part series about the P.C. Hoofthuis.

The P.C. Hoofthuis, like the extremely expensive shopping street, is named after the historian, man of letters, and poet Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft. Befitting its namesake, when it was built in 1984, it was intended as a Faculty of Letters. It now houses the language departments of the Faculty of Humanities. The name is even more fitting for those with a little more knowledge of the building's location, the Spuistraat. The former home ‘‘In den Huypot’’ of the Hooft family could be found here. It’s where P.C. Hooft grew up. 

“It soon became clear that the building was so popular that junkies and homeless people were camping out at the entrances”

Gloomy Spuistraat

Designed by architect Theo Bosch, the building is known as one of his best designs and one that he himself was extremely pleased with. The architectural world spoke highly of this new building in Amsterdam's city center and the P.C. Hoofthuis is considered one of the highlights of Dutch structuralism. It wasn't just architects and Bosch himself who were delighted with the building; Het Parool also praised it at the time: “A light building in the previously somber Spuistraat.” It soon became clear that the building was so popular that junkies and homeless people were soon camping out at the entrances. That's the story behind the fencing on both sides of the building. Only two of the original five entrances are still in use.


The building's light and “transparency” seem to be most appreciated. Indeed, because of the many windows, there is plenty of natural light in every part of the library, every corridor, and every tutorial room. This is not only because of the windows, but also because of the indentations Bosch added to the design. They break up the building visually and keep it from feeling like a colossal building from the outside, even though it is 115 meters long.


Originally, the lecture and work classrooms were not supposed to have windows to make it possible for passers-by to briefly enjoy a lecture or even to stand and listen. Fortunately, it was recognized that this would not work in practice. Two working lectures in opposite classrooms would be incredibly disruptive to each other, let alone the disturbance of passing students discussing their weekend plans loudly with each other on their way to another lecture.


Students have not always been positive about the building, either. An old edition of the history monthly magazine Eindeloos praises the light, but the labyrinthine staircases that allow only one-way traffic. More recently, a student in RedPers called the house “hideous” inside and out. Yet he was also of the opinion that the building has a certain charm.


In 2018, the building made plenty of headlines, although this had nothing to do with the building itself. It was occupied that year by students protesting education cuts by the administration. The occupiers were evicted from the building by the police and 31 of them were arrested.

Roof terrace

Out in the sun with a cup of coffee and canteen meal in hand on top of the P.C. Hoofthuis? This sounds like a pipe dream now, but that's what the architect originally had in mind. The rooftop terrace is there, but was closed rather quickly. Rumour had it that someone once jumped off of it, but this is just a myth. The real reason for the closure was that students did not leave the terrace tidy. Cigarette butts and cups were thrown off the roof, papers tossed on the ground, and chewing gum was stuck everywhere. Architect Bosch thought the closure was absurd at the time: “Should I come there personally to put the daily papers on the table and serve coffee?” Perhaps a few garbage bins and a new fence, like the one below, would be enough to reopen it.


Rich imagination

According to the architecture museum Arcam, the P.C. Hoofthuis is also called the “House of the Goblins” Do you know why this is so or have you heard this before? Tell us and we will write an article about it. Mail: