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Top-13 of the most important buildings in the 20th century
The Glass Palace becomes a monument Foreword to the book „Glaspaleis Schunck“ by William PARS Graatsma, on the occasion of the reopening of SCHUNCK
The Principals
Peter Schunck & Frits Peutz


On May 31 1935 the company A.Schunck moved to a new building, the still existing glass palace at the Bongerd square. This building of glass and concrete by architect Peutz was very progressive for the time. It was sort of a skyscraper in miniature: a supporting concrete structure with hanging glass facades. Between the glass and the skeleton a ventilation system is incorporated, which, when the sun shines, is driven by the rising heated air. At low temperatures, the air flow is reversed, it rises by the central staircase. The originally built-in fans were found to be unnecessary. Extensive information can be found on the Wikipedia page or at the less detailed Dutch page

Decré, Nantes - art deco

Client Peter Joseph Schunck and architect Frits Peutz were apparently well with each other. They traveled together through Europe to get ideas. The department store Decré by Henri Sauvage in Nantes (France) was the main source of inspiration. Peters order was: „Design a department store that is stacked like a marketplace next to the market“. Because the focus was on clothing and fabrics, he wanted to offer to the customers to have daylight not far away at any place in the building to be able to assess the color of the fabrics (source: oral tradition via PJA Schunck). The result is a building that surpasses in its transparancy even the Bauhaus building in Dessau which is so much famed for this.
The Second World War brought much misery for the Schunck building, three times the glass palace was hit by bombs. In late 1944 it was confiscated by the American generals Patton and Simpson to serve as a headquarters. A few months later it was „rest center“ for the French „maquis“ (Resistance). In particular the latter residents did not really handle the interior with consideration. After the war, the business flourished again, so good in fact that in 1954 a branch was opened in Geleen. It was specialised in women's clothing.

Top-13 of the most important buildings in the 20th century

Thirteen of the thousand most important buildings in the 20th Century the world are located in the Netherlands. This emerges from a list, the 20th, the Union Internationale d'Architecture to their Congress can create. chronologically:

Former Stock Exchange, Amsterdam (H.P. Berlage, 1903)
Flats "Eigen Haard" Zaanstraat, Amsterdam (M. de Klerk, 1920)
Schröderhuis, Utrecht (G.Th. Rietveld, 1924)
Flats "Kiefhoek" Rotterdam (JJP Oud, 1930)
Town Hall, Hilversum (W.M. Dudok, 1930)
Open Air School, Amsterdam (J. Duiker, 1930)
Van Nelle factories, Rotterdam (JA Brinkman LC van de Vlugt of, 1931)
Sanatorium "Zonnestraal", Hilversum (J. Duiker, 1931)
Department store Schunck, Heerlen (F.P.J. Peutz, 1936)
Civil Orphanage, Amsterdam (A. van Eyck, 1960)
"Centraal Beheer", Apeldoorn (H. Hertzberger, 1972)
Kunsthalle, Rotterdam (R. Koolhaas, 1992)
Expansion Arts Academy, Maastricht (W. Arets, 1992)

Source: International Architects Union UIA
found at belangrijkste gebouwen van de twintigste eeuw&aid=207 historische Aufnahme Glaspalast

The Glass Palace becomes a monument

Foreword to the book „Glaspaleis Schunck“ by William PARS Graatsma, on the occasion of the reopening of the Glass Palace

Alarmed by new threats to Schunck's Glass Palace in Heerlen - the Buildings Inspectorate had proposed dismantling the entire roof structure in 1962, while alterations in 1973 had seriously affected the building as a whole - Nic Tummers, the man who had dedicated himself for many years to the preservation of this building designed by the architect Frits Peutz, formed a working group towards the end of 1993 consisting of Jo Coumans, Jan Hubert Henket, Piet Mertens, Lian Strijards and the Peutz Foundation - represented by Wiel Arets, William Graatsma and Jan Peutz - with the aim of preserving and restoring the Glass Palace.

On 4 December 1995, thanks to the efforts of group and the Foundation, the State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science placed the Glass Palace Schunck on the list of Protected Monuments.

In the meantime, the F.R.J. Peutz Foundation, at the suggestion of Wiel Arets, had commissioned its secretary, William PARS Graatsma to trace the textual and visual documents relating to the construction of the Glass Palace and to produce a collection of them. This would make it possible to determine as precisely as possible the original appearance of the building.

The present book is the result of this research. It has been made possible thanks to the financial assistance of the ABP (Heerlen), the Anjerfonds Limburg, Wiel Arets Architect & Associates (Heerlen), Coumans Planning and Project Management Consultants (Heerlen), Chr. Dohmen-Schunck (Heerlen), the City of Heerlen, the Province of Limburg, the firm of A.Schunck (Heerlen), the SNS Bank Limburg, Peutz Architects (Heerlen), C.M. Koopman and C.M.J.I. Koopman-Peutz (Roermond), W.H.V Peutz (Tilburg-Diessen), V.M.A. Peutz (Ubbergen), J.H.F Peutz (Cloonen Hollymount, Ireland), AJ.F Peutz (Finighausen), A.V.I.F Peutz (Heerlen) and H.F.W Peutz (Breda).

The F.P.J. Peutz Foundation hopes that this book will help gain recognition for the work of Frits Peutz and for the historic importance the Glass Palace Schunck for architecture and urban engineering in general and for that of Heerlen in particular.

F.P.J. Peutz Foundation


The Principals

In 1874, Arnold Schunck (1844-1905), a descendant of an ancient family of weavers, moved from the German-speaking part of Belgium to the Dutch village of Heerlen to open a hand-loom weaving mill with a shop attached in "Willemstraat". The staff consisted of two men and a handful of orphan boys. Local sheep produced the wool, which was washed in the village stream, the Caumer, and dried in the nearby meadows. In1882 the business moved to the Kerkplein square. where further expansion took place over the years following.

The weaving mill had been closed for the machine age had begun in the Netherlands too, and the little mill in Heerlen had no chance of competing with the mechanical looms in Tilburg and Twente. In 1905 the founder of the firm died and was succeeded by his son Peter. The latter's forward-looking nature is shown by the fact that he introduced the new ready-to-wear clothing into the shop. Despite what were difficult times, the company, with staff of sixty, was expanding considerably. At the end of the First World War, textiles were so scarce and the German Mark had been devalued to such an extent that Peter Schunck was forced to operate at a considerable loss. Nevertheless, his business acumen was such that he was able to survive and he even set up a bus company to transport customers.

Peter Schunck & Frits Peutz

During the crisis years which followed - in the mid-thirties the coal industry entered a deep depression - and in the face of many people's doubts, Peter Schunck was able to realize a dream he had long cherished.In 1933 he commissioned the up-and-coming Heerlen architect Frits Peutz to design a "large tall store"

The opinion of the ex-minister Verschuur, on a visit to Heerlen, was that "Only a madman could put up a building like that during a depression. It is a foolhardy undertaking". The firm's stock now consisted of ladies', gentlemen's and children's clothing, drapery, textiles, beds and carpets. Schunck's motto was 'Quality always comes out on top'. His most unusual requirement for the new building was that the whole stock should be displayed at the place where it was to be sold. This was perfectly normal at the market, but it was a new technique for a shop. Given the large range of goods the company sold, it led to Peutz designing a building consisting of several retail storeys placed one above the other.

The idea was taken further by having a large number of display windows. The displays, done by the famous Cologne window-dresser Alexander Ludwig, would draw the attention of shoppers for many years. The fact that Schunck had already been involved with new building construction for some time is shown by the commission he had already given in 1927 to the architect Henri Dassen, who was active in the center of Heerlen.

The Glass Palace on the evening of the opening, June 1, 1935.
Photo Heerlen City Archives,
Archives Schunck

The commission, which was not in fact carried out, consisted of producing designs for a temporary wooden shop building between the 'Kerkplein' and 'Marktplein'. A few years later, Schunck was also in contact with the Amsterdam architect Jan Kuijt W.Z.N., who designed the V&D building (1920) on the 'Marktplein' in Heerlen. All this shows that Schunck was taking no chances with the new department store which he had in mind. He familiarized himself with architectural publications and visited department stores both in the Netherlands and abroad. One of these was Les Grands Magasins Decré in Nantes, which he visited together with Frits Peutz. This glass building, opened in 1932 and destroyed by bombing in 1943, turned out to be an inspiration to both client and architect. Designed in art deco style by Henri Sauvage (1873-1932), the architect who extended the Paris store 'La Samaritaine' (1926- 1929), this building was the result of an ideal collaboration between an enlightened client and his architect. Peter Schunck also was open to his architect's ideas, and this openness produced the building which came to be known as the Glass Palace.

F.P.J. Peutz Foundation

From: Glaspaleis Schunck by William PARS Graatsma (English / Dutch)


Schunck stond altijd bekend om zijn opvallende etalages. Een van de vele kleinkinderen van Peter en Christine Schunck-Cloot, Leo W.M. Schunck uit Maastricht schrijft:
„Ik kan nog verhalen vertellen over de introductie van het merk 'Lions Quality' waarbij de firma A.Schunck een samenwerking aanging met het voormalige Klant’s Dierentuin in Valkenburg, een opleidingsinstituut voor dompteurs en tevens dierentuin, op de plek waar nu 'Thermae 2000' is gevestigd.
De etalages werden bevolkt met o.a. leeuwen (voorkant) en apen en papegaaien in de etalages die verbinding hadden met de zaak.
Tevens was er te gelijker tijd een samenwerking met de »De Leeuw’s Bier« in Valkenburg. In de zaak stond o.a. op de herenconfectieafdeling een tap opgesteld. Iedereen die boven een bepaald bedrag kocht kon een gratis pilsje krijgen.
Op een zondagmorgen werd mijn vader (Pierre Schunck) opgebeld door Opa Schunck (Peter) met het verzoek om samen met de kinderen naar de zaak te komen, want de aapjes en papegaaien waren ontsnapt en hadden een ravage aangericht in de winkel. Wij als kleinkinderen moesten toen als drijvers achter de beesten aanzitten, zodat de medewerkers van Klant’s dierentuin ze konden vangen. Uiteraard een hoogtepunt in mijn jeugd.
Met kerstmis was mijn oma altijd jarig. (Oma Christine Schunck-Cloot). De etaleurs van de firma A.Schunck zorgden dan altijd voor een prachtige grote kerststal, met watertjes en alles wat erbij hoorde. Deze kerststal werd opgezet in de hal van het »Penthouse« (daktuin) recht tegenover de privélift van opa en oma. Het was steeds weer een indrukwekkend geheel.
Denk ook aan de legendarische sinterklaasmiddagen, de prachtige kerstetalages enz. enz.“


On June 30 2004 the grand opening of the renewed Glass Palace took place. The revolutionary building (1935) by architect Frits Peutz flaunts as ever in the center of Heerlen. No longer as a fashion house, like before, but as a cultural palace.
On January 1, 2009, SCHUNCK* was created from the combination of forces of several previously independent cultural institutions that were located in the Glass Palace: the museum of modern and contemporary art (stadsgalerij Heerlen), the center for architecture and urban design (Vitruvianum), the public library of Heerlen, the music school and the repertory cinema Filmhuis de Spiegel in the former penthouse. Here is also Restaurant 5.0




A point of criticism is that little is left of the old penthouse. It had to make way for a restaurant and an arthouse cinema. Also, the multifunctionality that Peutz had in mind (he was an early crossover thinker) has been lost because the different occupants don't cooperate. This is contrary to the synergy that Peutz loved so much. A different point of criticism is that the City now brags with the recognition as one of the 1000 most important buildings of the 20th century, but that reward was given to the original 1930s building that the City had left to decay until it started being recognised as an important monument.
The penthouse bay of the Glaspaleis and the church tower in the background.

This modern and 'open' building contrasts sharply with the 13th century 'closed' Romanesque Pancratius Church next to it. The then pastor, Pierre Jochems, was quite enthusiastic about this modern building, but his successor, Theo van Galen, was less pleased with its dominance over the church. Peutz had actually decided to respect the venerable character of the church by giving this secular building its own contrasting form, sober and businesslike. It was never meant as a monument of architecture. But the passing of time has made it just that.