Tile panels as decoration on buildings are common, as are carved reliefs. Less often you see the combination: tile reliefs or relief tiles. Where tiles are normally painted flat, they have a raised image with depth effect. Four of them can be found at the House of Labor on Oudenoord which opened in 1940.
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As the first office building on the new Oudenoord, the Huis van de Arbeid housed the Roman Catholic Workers’ Association and sister organizations. In this pillarized time that included a bank and insurance company for Catholic workers. The brick building on a concrete plinth was designed by the brothers Herman (1903-1981) and Evert Kraaijvanger (1899-1978).
Although the House has a sober appearance – “simplicity is striking, characteristic of the truth”, de Volkskrant wrote at the opening – not only the hall is richly decorated but also the facade. Above the entrance is a sandstone frieze of a colorful procession of workers by Albert Termote (1887-1978). On the left and right sides, relief tile panels show symbolic representations of the users of the building.
The designer of the four tile panels was Adriaan van der Plas (1899-1974). Just like the Kraaijvanger brothers, he came from Rotterdam, where he went through the Academy of Visual Arts and, after study trips through Europe, established himself definitively as a stained-glass artist, painter, sculptor and decorative artist. He specialized in religious art and was a member of the General Catholic Artists’ Association (AKKV). A few years earlier, the also Catholic architectural duo had collaborated with Van der Plas on housing blocks on the Nieuwe Binnenweg in Rotterdam. The series of ceramic façade reliefs with themes from the zodiac that the artist designed there resemble those at the House of Labor, although the representations are lighter.
The child has – as a moving detail – a hug under her arm and receives a fruit from the woman
Just like those on the Oudenoord, the Rotterdam tile panels were performed by Russell-Tiglia in Tegelen. Originally this factory made tiles and bricks, but at the initiative of a local curate, the Atelier for Ornamental Ceramics was started in 1936. Religious pottery was mainly produced. From the designs that Adriaan van der Plas made for the Nieuwe Binnenweg, Tiglia even took individual decorative tiles into production.
The tile pictures at the House of Labor are located between the windows of the floors at the ends of the facade. They each consist of 24 tiles and are approximately two meters wide. The background color is light yellow, the raised foreground is off-white, with orange ceramics sometimes shimmering through. The four tableaus are symmetrical in structure, with left and right angular shapes as a kind of fence for the performance. A person is always central in the middle.
Are you looking to add a touch of art in your own home, look through tile reviews to find the best story tiles to adorn your home.