Modernism is not the 20th-century view on architecture, but the fundamental attitude of any architect seeking to innovate. That, at least, was the belief of architect and Freemason Henk Wegerif. His innovative designs were aimed at civilizing mankind.

A good factory building has light and pleasant working areas for the labourers and is in harmony with its environment. This is typical of the architectural views of Ahazuerus Hendrikus Wegerif (1888-1963). Indeed, the labourer's cottages the self-taught architect from Apeldoorn (NL) designed always included an extra room in which the occupants could withdraw for study and reflection. No villa or country home he designed was ever just a rectangular box, it would have tiled walls and leaded windows specially designed by an artist. "He sought to uplift man with good architecture", PhD candidate Thomas explains.
Quite how, was not something he learned at university. Wegerif came from a family of builders and architects. His father felt architectural education was unnecessary and took his son into his apprenticeship after he had finished primary school. Result: Wegerif designed his first house 'De Klaproos' [The Poppy] when he was just eighteen. After briefly working for a New York architect firm, he founded his own firm back in Apeldoorn in 1909, at the age of 21. According to Thomas, his firm would go on to design no fewer than 550 works.

In that same year he also joined the Order of Freemasons. The order had a tremendous influence on his life. He even set up a new lodge in The Hague and was elected Grand Master. The influence on his work is evident in such details as black-and-white chequered tiled floors and notched edges on façades, but also in his commitment to the Gulden Snede ['Golden Section']. Freemasons believe this will protect and promote harmony among people.
As the majority of his work consisted of villas, Thomas assumed that Wegerif probably used his masonic network to attract numerous private commissions. This proved a misconception. Research in the archives of the Central Masonic Centre revealed that not a single commissioner was a Freemason. He did write several study papers for the student club Vereniging Tempelbouw.

During the Second World War, Wegerif refused to design for the Kultuurkamer. That cost him his job as an architect for five years. Never one to give up, he devoted his time and attention to publishing. His works included a series of books entitled Bouwmeesters der Middeleeuwen en hun werken ['Architects of the Middle Ages and their Works']. His in-depth studies of cathedrals across Europe highlighted both the harmony of the design and the modernisations of his distant predecessors. This reflected his own individual drive to innovate. In Villa Solheim, for example, Wegerif first introduced innovative hollow brick floors in Delft. Thomas: "This typifies the man. To him, true modernists are those who venture off the beaten track and plot their own course."

Published: December 2014