1940-1945: World War II

During the war years, business for the company the Van der Wals had built since 1869 would gradually dwindle down and finally come to a complete standstill.

Business-wise, the first few years still saw room for optimism and growth. Construction continued and the company expanded its business into building maintenance and restoration, in part through the acquisition of the renowned Amsterdam firm Staal & Haalmeyer. The Bataafsche set up a separate division for maintenance and restorative work.

In 1943, Joop van der Wal published his classic book on the economic development of the construction industry in the Netherlands since the early Middle Ages, De economische ontwikkeling van het bouwbedrijf in Nederland. As the third-generation Van der Wal in a growing business, he had always had a broader involvement in the industry, and the research for his study enabled him to further hone his ideas. Focussing on topics such as alignment of the industry with more advanced industries in terms of technology, collaboration within the sector, and delegation of tasks within a decentralised company, his thinking echoes the vision of Adam, his grandfather.

A notable project that was completed in this period was the relocation of the Rotterdam zoo. Originally located at the heart of the city centre, the old zoo had to make room for homes, and a new zoo was planned in the Blijdorp polder just outside of the city in 1937. Architect Sybold van Ravesteyn provided the design with a mix of neo-baroque and functionalist elements, to be executed largely in concrete. Unlike the old zoo, which belonged to a private society, the Blijdorp Zoo would be open to the general public.

Jan van der Wal, the second generation in the company’s history as a family business, passed away on 2 July 1940, shortly after the beginning of the war.