KEY, Lieven de
(b. ca. 1560, Gent, d. 1627, Haarlem)

Biography

Dutch architect of Flemish origin. As a Protestant he sought refuge in London in 1580, but returned to Europe in 1590 and settled in Haarlem, where he was employed by the civic authorities as a mason from November 1591. On 3 July 1593 he was promoted to municipal mason and carpenter in succession to Willem den Abt. A year later he was called to Leiden to design a façade for the existing town hall: his work there is one of the richest examples of Dutch Mannerist architecture.

De Key's main works were executed in Haarlem. In 1601 he collaborated with the city carpenter Claes Pietersz. to produce two designs for a Butchers' Hall (Vleeshal); the one by de Key was implemented, and it is his most important work. The hall is a right-angled brick building, liberally decorated with boldly cut blocks of sandstone and scrollwork ornament.

In 1613 de Key built a new picturesque tower for the church of St Anna (destroyed 1644; replaced in 1645 by the Nieuwe Kerk of Jacob van Campen). On the foundations of the medieval tower a rubble balustrade was built around an octagonal brick base out of which a lead-covered wooden spire rose, crowned with an obelisk.

The last known work by de Key is the façade of the new side wing of Haarlem Town Hall (1620). Three years after his death it was extended to meet the front elevation.

Lieven de Key was one of the leading architects of the Dutch Renaissance in the manner of Hans Vredeman de Vries. From his early training as a mason, he retained a feel for the use of materials, and he showed a skilled knowledge of proportions and a liking for elegant decoration. The masons of Haarlem were greatly influenced by his work; during the first half of the 17th century many town halls were built in his style.