Dutch architecture combines cutting-edge design and technology

The architecture sector in the Netherlands is the fifth-largest in Europe, in terms of both employment and production value. Top architects, such as Rem Koolhaas and Ben van Berkel, are in strong demand worldwide.

A country of man-made design and innovative architectural solutions

The Netherlands is a country of designers, in fact the country itself is for the most part a man-made design. Topographical and social circumstances in the Netherlands, such as the presence of large areas of water, the focus on sustainability and the lack of living space, have led to innovative architectural solutions.

The most famous Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaas - founder of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) - has received commissions for prestigious projects abroad, such as designing the new building for the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV in Beijing. Another successful firm, West8, bureau for Urban Design & Landscape Architecture, has received the prestigious commission for the design and layout of Governor's Island in New York.

Large Dutch architecture and engineering firms dominate the international market for architecture services. Part of this success is due to the high level of education and training in the Netherlands, including at the technical universities Delft and Eindhoven.

Key aspects and strengths

The Dutch architecture industry is one of the most innovative in the world and is influenced by the lack of space, the regard for sustainability, the increasing influence of users and the problems associated with water. Dutch architects are renowned worldwide for their social engagement, use of innovative materials and sustainability.

The Dutch architectural tradition is known for more than just its building design but for its total approach to urban planning and complex restructuring. Dutch architects are increasingly obtaining a central role throughout the entire building process (supply chain director).

Dutch house-building is highly rated for its flexibility and creativity. The Netherlands has a number of architects and firms that specialize in housing, such as Mecanoo, Claus & Kaan, and Atelier Kempe Thill. There are others who stand out on account of stand-alone buildings that function as 'business cards', including the OMA (the Kunsthal), Neutelings Riedink (Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision) and Meyer & van Schooten (ING head office).

The Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) has an important function as a knowledge institute. Through exhibitions, platform activities (lectures and debates) and publications, the NAi aims at both professionals and the general public. The international activities of the NAi are closely aligned to the international cultural policies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

The Dutch Design Fashion Architecture (DutchDFA) was a four-year strategic programme (2009-2012) aimed at strengthening the international position of Dutch design, fashion, and architecture, by building long-lasting international partnerships and focusing on topical issues and local demand. As a follow-up to DutchDFA, the Creative Industries Fund NL administers a four-year internationalisation programme for the Dutch creative sector (2013–2016).  This happens in close collaboration with the main DutchDFA partners, united in The New Institute and the Dutch Federation of Creative Industries.

Facts & Figures

  • There were some 15,000 architects registered in the Netherlands in 2014. This group included architects, interior architects, urban planners and landscape architects.
  • Statistics Netherlands classifies architects together with engineering firms. Designers of infrastructure, such as bridges and tunnels, are generally civil engineers however there are also architects in the Netherlands who design such infrastructural objects. Engineering firms which also provide architectural services are Arcadis, Haskoning and DHV.
  • Almost every company in the Dutch architecture sector is a small or medium-sized enterprise.
  • The Royal Institute of Dutch Architects (BNA) is the only trade organisation for architects. In 2014, it had 1157 members, with an estimated 3,6 persons working for the specific architectural agencies.