1945-1959: Reconstruction of the Netherlands

When peace returned the country slowly got back on its feet. When it did, there was no end to the optimism. The company took its place among the nation’s most important builders, while gradually expanding the scope of its activities

In a country recovering from a time of famine in the dire winter of 1944-1945, there was now room for new ideas. In the construction sector, the Bataafsche played its part in a wave of thorough modernisation. Joop van der Wal and Gerrit Jonkheid were instrumental in the establishment of a national trade magazine, Bouw, that aimed to promote a culture of collaboration and mutual respect. They helped establish a national training institute for the construction and infra sectors, the ‘Stichting Vakopleiding Bouwbedrijf’, which would set the standard for professionalisation until the end of the century.

Joop and Gerrit both held key positions in organisations that helped reshape relations between builders, architects, employers and suppliers: less hierarchical and more team-oriented, with each party bringing its specific skills set to the table.

When Joop van der Wal died in 1955, his loss was felt throughout the sector.

In the late forties and early fifties, business was booming, with projects such as the expansion of the Dutch national airport, Schiphol, and the company’s first contract with a value of over a million: the construction of a factory complex for train manufacturer Beijnes – the complex included worker homes and even its own railway station.

From 1955 onwards, however, the economy slowed and a period of austerity set in. The response of the Bataafsche was to focus on delivering quality at the lowest possible price. Sensible entrepreneurship in the boom years had left the company in good health, and the number of employees had over the years grown to more than 1,000. At the end of the 1950s, even this number was insufficient to meet market demand, while at the same time the labour market was tight. The company began investing more heavily in labour-saving technology and work methods.