The Definition of a Historic Building
Amsterdam is a treasure-house of more historic buildings and sites than any other city in the world. This map gives an accurate idea of the dispersion of the historic buildings and sites over the Amsterdam city centre. According to the most recent data (January 1, 1999) there are 6,936 historic buildings in Amsterdam which fall under the jurisdiction of the national government. Among them are 144 so-called large monuments (churches and public buildings, i.e. buildings commissioned and/or used by the local authorities and government controlled institutions); the remainder, by far the largest part, consists of smaller buildings, especially private houses. Lined up side by side these historic buildings would form a row 52 kilometres long. But buildings are not the only structures we are concerned with here. Amsterdam is the location of many historic sites such as bridges, sluices etc.
The Dutch Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act gives the following definition of historic buildings and/or sites: "all objects at least fifty years old which are of general interest because of their aesthetic value, their scientific interest or their cultural-historical significance". An object which meets the above criteria, however, may be called a historic building or site only if it is officially listed as such. The age limit applies only to the buildings and sites which fall under the jurisdiction of the national government not to the objects which are the responsibility of the city of Amsterdam.
Apart from single buildings and sites larger wholes may be eligible for a position on the list, on condition they are of considerable architectural or cultural-historical value. The basic characteristics of the city centre remained intact in spite of the major damage done since the 1850s. Such a large part of both the infrastructure and the architecture of the ring of canals survived in the original set-up that the preservation of larger wholes, sometimes entire neighbourhoods, is warranted. Amsterdam has several so-called "protected cityscapes", a term precisely defined by the Dutch Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act (e.g. the Nieuwmarktbuurt). In 1989 the Amsterdam city centre was recommended in its entirety (i.e. the whole area within the confinement of the Singelgracht) for inclusion in the list of "protected cityscapes". It is expected that the official legal status will be granted this year.
Characteristically the city centre of Amsterdam consists of separate houses; each house with its own roof, front door and facade. We usually distinguish between ordinary single houses (3 bays, total width 25-30 feet, i.e. 7-8.5 metres, with the front door placed to one side but often in the middle in the case of 17th century houses) and double houses (5 bays, total width 50-60 feet, i.e. 14-17 metres, often built in the 17th century and extensively renovated in the 18th century). There are exceptions to every rule: Keizersgracht 604 and Herengracht 499 are examples of double houses of which the window section takes up 3 bays, whereas Keizersgracht 221 has 4 bays making up the window section. 70-72 Herengracht and Herengracht 170-172 are examples of two houses sharing a single facade. Kloveniersburgwal 29 and Keizersgracht 177 are "king-size" houses which in fact belong to the category of two houses sharing one facade.
Another common distinction applies to the function of the houses. Merchants' houses are characterised by top floors designed to serve as storage space for commodities, whereas mansions were built for residential purposes only. Most of the Amsterdam houses come under the first heading. However, even though the houses were conceived as separate entities, together they form a unified whole because of the harmony in size and proportions that can be observed throughout the city centre. This is one of the reasons why the Amsterdam city centre is such a unique and rare whole. The characteristics which are at the basis of the Amsterdam cityscape are:
narrow plots resulting in deep and elongated groundplans (consequently the roofs are at right angles to the facades, which led to the development of the gable top)
unity of sizes and use of materials (small differences in height, i.e. four floors for houses on the main canals, standard width, i.e., 3 bays for single houses and 5 bays for double houses, red brick or sandstone facades with sandstone ornaments decorating top gable and entrance)
facades leaning slightly forward and cantilevering
stoops, side steps and cellar shops
Merchants’ houses are by definition canal houses. Characteristic features of such houses are attics and cellars which served as storage space for the commodities which were transported by boat. It is true to say that trade determined the Amsterdam cityscape; water being an essential feature.
The canal houses, usually built as residences for wealthy citizens, determine the Amsterdam cityscape. They are characterised by narrow, relatively tall facades, often crowned by richly ornamented gable tops. By and large the development of the canal house facades follows the history of architecture. Typical of the Amsterdam facades, however, is the gable top. The reason behind the characteristic shape of the Amsterdam facades is the fact that the plots were narrow and deep with the narrow side facing the canal. It is crucial to realise that as a result the ridges of the saddle roofs were at right angles to the facades. Ornamental gable tops came to be used as a way to hide the saddle roofs from view. A whole range developed: stepped gables, neck-gables, bell-shaped gables etc. The relatively rare double houses are exceptions to this rule. Their fronts are wider and therefore the ridge of the roof runs parallel with the facade. Consequently, there is no need to hide the "ugly" ridge making the use of cornice-fronts a viable option.
The style of the facade is one way of dating canal houses. However, a word of warning is in order for a house may be younger or older than its facade. In the 18th and 19th centuries the facades were often replaced by more modern ones, whereas in our days it is not uncommon to retain the historical facade and build a new house behind it. Besides, most of the windows had to be replaced in the course of the lifetime of the houses. One rarely finds a 17th century house in possession of its original cross-bar windows. Even 18th century window frames largely disappeared, although many of them are reconstructed as part of restoration projects.
Warehouses form an integral and important part of Amsterdam’s industrial heritage. No other European city has within its boundaries such a large number of historic warehouses. Why this situation exists is not hard to explain. In the 17th century Amsterdam was the number one staple market of the world and nearly all commodities which changed hands passed through the Amsterdam warehouses at one stage. Until circa 1600 it was common practice for a merchant to store his commodities in the loft of his house. As trade intensified, the demand for storage space increased. At the beginning of the 17th century warehouses were built everywhere. Like the residences of their owners they were tall, narrow and deep.
The average warehouse plot is approximately 30 meters deep, just like the merchants’ houses. However, the ground plan of a house is divided up into a front and a back section with a courtyard in the middle, whereas warehouses consist of a single massive block with all the available storage space put to good use.
Warehouses are easily recognizable by the vertical arrangement of shuttered attic windows, sometimes rectangular in shape but often provided with semi-circular lintels. The most frequent warehouse top gable is the funnel-shaped gable. This type of warehouse was common until well into the 18th century. Obviously this type of building was functional enough to keep meeting demands for many generations. Consequently, it is not easy to distinguish between 17th and 18th century warehouses on the basis of their outward appearance. There are many examples.
The most frequent type is the ordinary single plot warehouse, of which many examples survive today. The usual width is 5 to 8 meters, the same as a single plot merchant’s house. In many cases warehouses were placed side by side along the canal side, forming a so-called ‘warehouse row’. Less frequent is the double warehouse (approximately 15 meters wide) with two identical funnel-shaped gables. Even rarer are double warehouses with a single trapezoid shaped gable top.
Finally Amsterdam has several king-size warehouses, once owned by large multinational companies such as the Dutch East India Company or government agencies. A fine example is ‘s Lands Zeemagazijn by Daniel Stalpaert. The building was erected for the purpose of storing the supplies of the Admiralty.
A brief look at historic buildings in Amsterdam will show you that all canal houses have hoist beams. After all trade and commerce are at the basis of Amsterdam life and most houses were built as merchants’ houses combining residential and business functions. Hoist beams were indispensable. Their purpose was to tackle commodities up into the loft. It stands to reason that such provisions belonged to the standard equipment of warehouses. Many warehouses were provided with the latest technology in tackling gear.
The Weigh House at the Nieuwmarkt is the oldest secular public building in Amsterdam. It was designed as a city gate (Sint Antoniespoort, 1488) and as such it formed part of the medieval defences.
However, the most important secular building in town is, without doubt, the Royal Palace (1648-1665), designed as the most prestigious town hall of its time. No other European city, or country for that matter, had ever commissioned a facility this size to accommodate its administrative machinery. The Royal Palace, therefore, is justly famous for being the most important cultural and historic building of 17th century Amsterdam.
In 1787 the Felix Meritis Society commissioned the building of the same name. Felix Meritis is one of Amsterdam’s most splendid 18th century buildings. For many years it was the centre of local cultural life.
Town hall in the Dam Square (1648/65), now Royal Palace
The construction of the Royal Palace was begun in 1648 and completed in 1665. The building was designed to serve as a town hall. Jacob van Campen is the architect responsible for the overall design, while Daniël Stalpaert, the city architect, was put in charge of the technical realisation. After Van Campen’s quarrel with the city administrators, he left the city. In 1654 Stalpaert was appointed project manager in charge of the entire operation. Artus Quellijn, the Flemish sculptor, and his associates completed the sculptures. However, at the time of the opening ceremony, in 1655, the project had not been fully completed yet. It would take another ten years to finish the entire operation, whereas the internal decoration was an ongoing process that continued till well into the 18th century.
There were several good reasons to replace the old Gothic town hall. The administration of the rapidly growing city had outgrown its accommodation. Moreover, the condition of the medieval building had deteriorated to the point where it became dangerous to enter the premises. A new, larger town hall was badly needed. While the construction of the new town hall was still in progress, the old one burned down.
Apart from the practical reasons for embarking on the project of building a new town hall, the growing self-confidence of the city, which mainly resulted from the successful negotiations of the Mnster Peace Treaty in 1648, needed an outlet. A project which comprised the planning and construction of the largest government building in 17th century Europe proved the ideal public relations effort for the rich and powerful and above all republican city of Amsterdam. The general euphoria induced the city administrators to choose the most prestigious design from several plans submitted by the leading architects of the day.
The city was proud of its town hall. Generations of school children where taught the symbolic significance of the number of wooden poles making up the foundation (13,659 poles, one for each of the days of the year with a one in front and a nine behind). The eighth Wonder of the World - a popular nickname in praise of this remarkable achievement - was designed to reflect the prosperity and power of Amsterdam. Brick was considered too pedestrian a construction material. A yellowish sandstone from Bentheim in Germany was used for the entire building (the stone has darkened considerably in the course of time, see the pictures below), while only marble was considered good enough for the interior. Jacob van Campen drew inspiration from the public buildings of Rome. A new Capitol was built for the Amsterdam burgomasters who thought of themselves as the consuls of the new Rome of the North. The glory of the Dutch Republic in general and the city of Amsterdam in particular yielded the most important historic and cultural monument of 17th century Holland. The building can be seen on many old drawings and paintings.
Until 1808 the building was used as a town hall. Subsequently, king Louis Napoleon turned it into a royal palace. The galleries were provided with wooden partitionings to create additional rooms. A balcony was added to the facade to meet royal public relations requirements. Splendid Empire furniture - still part of the collection of the palace today - served to modernise the interior decoration. In the course of the 20th century much work was done to the building. Louis Napoleon’s modifications were reversed and the palace was restored to its original state of a government building based on classical models. Since the 1960 restoration the building has been open to the public, though on a limited scale.
Jacob van Campen designed a well-balanced building in a style we call Dutch Classicism. He exercised a considerable amount of restraint as far as the basic shapes and decorative schemes were concerned. These starting points resulted in a set-up characterised by perspicuity of design. Nowhere does the decoration distract one’s attention from the overall structure. The facade is a harmonious composition based on the proportions advocated by the champions of classical architecture. The prominent plinth supports two pilaster zones, each of them corresponding with a large and a smaller window (i.e. 1.5 storeys). Corinthian pilasters articulate the upper and Composite pilasters the lower section, a scheme promoted by Vincenzo Scamozzi. The middle ressault and fronton as well as the corner pavilions slightly project beyond the building line. Capitals, festoons and other sculptural elements are of the very best quality without drawing too much attention to themselves. The festoons were copied by many designers of canal houses. Especially impressive are the large sculptured marble pediments and the bronze statues on top of the frontons.
The central dome afforded a fine view of the IJ and the arrivals and departures of the many ships. A notable aspect of the building is the lack of a conspicuous main entrance. Seven unadorned arches at street level (no steps) give access to the building, indicating that the town hall belonged to everybody.
Whereas the exterior of the building is austere and reticent in character, its interior may well be called dazzling. Jacob van Campen’s town hall, now the royal palace, should therefore be a priority on every sightseer’s list.
Churches in Amsterdam
The historic churches located in the Amsterdam city centre form the core of an important group of large historic buildings. The following main groups can be distinguished: the medieval Gothic churches, 17th and 18th century Renaissance and Classicist churches and finally the 19th century churches built in what are commonly called revival styles. The Oude Kerk (Old Church), originally called Church of St. Nicholas, is the oldest building in Amsterdam. The first church which was built on the site of the present Gothic building was erected circa 1300. Soon the necessity arose to build a second church. The Church of Our Lady or Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) was designed as a branch church to the Oude Kerk. However, it was not long before the younger church surpassed its older predecessor.
Apart from these two major churches there were many smallish Gothic chapels, some of them belonging to the Amsterdam convents (Engelse Kerk, Waalse Kerk). The medieval churches were by definition Roman Catholic churches named after saints. After the Reformation they were taken over by the Protestants, who soon suppressed all references to Catholic saints. The church of St. Nicholas became the Oude Kerk (Old Church); the church of Our Lady became the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and two chapels, originally devoted to St. Olof or St. Odulphus and the Miracle of Amsterdam were renamed the Oudezijds and Nieuwezijds chapels respectively.
These names referred to the locations (the old and the new side) of the buildings, a type of nomenclature more acceptable to the predominantly Protestant city.
The turmoil brought about by the Reformation and the quarrel with the Catholic king of Spain resulted in Amsterdam becoming a Protestant city. Eventually, only those who belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church were allowed freedom of worship. They were permitted to equip their churches with towers. All other religious denominations, with the exception of the influential Jewish community, were forced underground.
However, in the characteristic Amsterdam manner, legislation was interpreted as a friendly suggestion rather than a hard and fast rule. Religious gatherings of other denominations were tolerated on condition that their buildings were not recognisable as churches from the outside. The Roman Catholics in town held Masses in so-called conventicles, churches disguised as ordinary houses and equipped with collapsible altars and movable furniture. In this way the ‘church’ could be turned into a house at will. The best-known conventicle, which survives today and is now a museum, is Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic).
The Jewish community occupied a unique position. Large synagogues were built, but without towers. At that time the official Dutch Reformed churches were built in the style of the Renaissance and named after their respective locations (e.g. the Westerkerk, the Zuiderkerk and the Noorderkerk, located in the west, south and north of the city).
The churches built during the first two decades of the 17th century were special for they were the first churches commissioned by Protestants: the Zuiderkerk, the Noorderkerk, and the Westerkerk. These buildings were designed for the Protestant service which centres around the pulpit, rather that the Catholic Mass which emphasises the procession and the Eucharist. Another, later example is Nieuwe Lutherse Kerk.
At the end of the 18th century the political climate underwent significant changes. Catholics and Protestants were granted equal rights. In the course of the 19th century the Roman Catholics commissioned a large number of churches. This was the heyday of the Catholic Emancipation. An important example is the Sint Nicolaaskerk. The neo-Gothic style was especially associated with this revival of Catholicism in the Netherlands as well as abroad, although not every 19th century Catholic church is by definition an neo-Gothic church. Pugin and Viollet-le-Duc were the champions of this style in England and France respectively, while the Dutch architect Cuypers was of crucial importance to the introduction of neo-Gothic architecture in Amsterdam.
Gothic Architecture in Amsterdam
In 1954, when excavations were carried out in the Oudekerksplein area, archaeologists uncovered the remnants of a stone house dating back to the 14th century. From the 1350s onwards the more innovative among Amsterdam home owners started to build stone houses in the Warmoesstraat, Nieuwendijk and Oudezijds and Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. However, it was not until the 1550s that stone houses were built on a larger scale. After the great fires of 1421 and 1452, which consumed large parts of the medieval city (30 and 75% resp.), several attempts were made to curb the use of wood. But to no avail. The legislation passed by the city administrators was largely ignored. It took Amsterdam home owners more than a century to start observing the regulations.
The first stone houses were Gothic houses. None of them survive today. In 1909 a stone Gothic house was discovered near the Prins Hendrikkade. It was pulled down that very same year. The only remnants of Gothic architecture in Amsterdam are churches (especially Oude Kerk, Nieuwe Kerk). The Amsterdam version of Gothic architecture is commonly referred to as ‘Dutch Brick Gothic’ or ‘Polder Gothic’ architecture, although it is important to realise that the Nieuwe Kerk shares some features with French Gothic architecture. Apart from the two major churches, some medieval chapels with Gothic elements survive today.
Fortunately several Amsterdam houses are still in possession of their original Gothic timber frames, including the traditional nib decorations. Examples: Warmoesstraat 83 (±1400), Begijnhof 1 and 2-3 (±1425), Begijnhof 34 (±1425) and Warmoesstraat 5 (±1500) and the warehouses Warmoesstraat 42 (back elevation) and Oudezijds Achterburgwal 78.
From about 1570 onwards stone houses were built on a large scale. This development coincides with the ascendancy of the late Renaissance style we call Mannerism. This style was popularised in The Netherlands by Pieter Coecke van Aelst (1502-1550) who Architecture architecture published translations of the world-famous treatises on architecture written by Vitruvius and Serlio. Another important book which helped to promote the new style was Architectura by Hans Vredeman de Vries (1527-1606). The author based himself partly on Coecke van Aelst and published his collection of decorations between 1656 and 1577. Key figures were the Harlem sculptor Lieven de Key (1560-1627) and his Amsterdam colleague Hendrick de Keyser (1565- 1621). They became the founding fathers of the Dutch (as well as the Amsterdam) Renaissance.
The Dutch Renaissance style can be subdivided into 4 phases:
Early Renaissance (circa 1540 - circa 1600)
Dutch Renaissance (circa 1600 - circa 1615)
Amsterdam Renaissance (circa 1615 - circa 1640)
Plain Amsterdam Renaissance (circa 1615 - circa 1665)
Striking features of Renaissance architecture are the use of red brick facades with alternating strips of white sandstone (popularly called ‘rashers of bacon’) and relieving arches above the windows (relieving arches serve to divide the weight of the bricks above the lintels more evenly by diverting the pressure towards the frame posts).
The year 1625 marks the advent of Dutch Classicism which in due course came to replace Renaissance architecture altogether. The period 1640-1665 is commonly regarded as the hey-day of Dutch Classicism, a style created by important architects such as Jacob van Campen (1595-1657) and Philips Vingboons (1607-1678). Dutch Classicism, sometimes called ‘Classical Baroque’, was a strong reaction against the Mannerist tradition of Hendrick de Keyser and his followers. The rules laid down in the Italian treatises were strictly observed.
Palladio as well as Scamozzi, his colleague from Northern Italy, had provided detailed descriptions of the ideal sizes and proportions as well as the correct sequence of the five classical orders (Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Composite). The popularisation of the ideals of classical architecture, which represented the culmination of architectural design, coincided with the rise of a new class-conscious elite, consisting of wealthy merchants whose aspirations were reflected in a modern and above all dignified lifestyle. The reticence and austerity of the new architecture catered for this target group. The fact that this small group of people dominated the Amsterdam scene, both economically and culturally as well as politically, is clearly demonstrated by the fact that Jacob van Campen was hired to build the new town hall (now Royal Palace 1648-1665) in the Dam Square. It was to be the most prestigious building in town executed in the new Classicist style.
However, the new town hall was not the first Classicist building that arose in Amsterdam. In 1625 the Coymans brothers had commissioned from Jacob van Campen a large building on the Keizersgracht which was to provide separate accommodations for both Joan and Balthasar Coymans. Keizersgracht 177 is the only mansion Van Campen built in Amsterdam. It is by far the earliest representative of the new style and has come to occupy a unique place on the list of historic buildings. The large facade is crowned by an imposing cornice and has been provided with pilaster decorations. The attic above the cornice was raised in the 19th century. Strikingly the top floor has Composite pilasters, whereas the main floor has Ionic pilasters, an arrangement that more meticulous classicists would not have allowed.
Large facades of double mansions (50-60 feet wide) are ideally suited to do justice to classical pilaster orders and to accommodate cornices with or without triangular frontons. Important examples are: Singel 548 (1639-1642) commissioned by Joan Huydecoper and destroyed in 1943; Kloveniersburgwal 95 (Poppen House, 1642) commissioned by Joan Poppen; Kloveniersburgwal 77 (Bambeeck House, 1650) built for Nicolaas van Bambeeck; Oudezijds Voorburgwal 316 (Jacob’s Ladder, 1655), commissioned by Pieter de Mayer; Kloveniersburgwal 29 (1662), also called the Trippenhuis after the brothers Hendrick and Louys Trip; Herengracht 386 (1665) built for Carel Gerards and last but not least Herengracht 412 (1667) commissioned by Guillaume Belin la Garde. All of the houses listed above were designed by Philips Vingboons, with the exception of Kloveniersburgwal 29, for which Philips’s brother Justus was responsible. The peculiar house at Herengracht 388 (1665) is also attributed to Justus, although the evidence remains inconclusive.
Adapting the classical orders to the facades of narrower single-plot houses (25-30 feet) presented problems. After all pillars and pilasters need space in order to be shown to advantage. Some early attempts were made by unknown architects: Herengracht 200-204 (The Eagle, circa 1620, pulled down at the end of the 18th century); Oudezijds Voorburgwal 239 (1634) and Rozengracht 48. It was Philips Vingboons, one-time assistant to Van Campen and the most important designer of Amsterdam canal houses, who rose to the challenge. His application of the classical orders to the narrow facades of single-plot houses led to the development of the neck-gable. He created an ‘abridged’ version of the stepped gable, i.e. the neck-gable, to create space for the classical orders. However, even Vingboons could not always solve the problem of adapting the prescribed sizes and pilasters to the space available to him.
Examples: Keizersgracht 319 (1639), Rokin 145 (1642/43). Sometimes Vingboons dispensed with pilasters: Herengracht 168 (1638). Herengracht 364-370 (Cromhout Houses, 1660/62).
The Classicist style of Van Campen and Vingboons found many followers in Amsterdam. In many cases the future owners of the premises could not afford to hire a big name and had their facades designed by the contractors who were responsible for the actual building of the houses. This kind of architecture is sometimes jocularly referred to as ‘contractors’ classicism’. Examples: Herengracht 70-72 (1643) and Singel 83-85 (The Swan, 1652).
The neck-gable, Vingboons’ trademark, was also widely copied: Beulingstraat 25 (1653); Herengracht 59 (1659). One cheap version economizes on the entablature by having the central pilasters go all the way up into the neck, thus saving the cost involved in building a pediment proper: Bloemgracht 108 (1644); Brouwersgracht 218 (1650); Prinsengracht 36 (1650) and Korte Prinsengracht 9 (1653).
The "Flat Style"
From 1665 onwards the popularity of the pilaster facade started to decline. Between 1665 and 1700 the Classicist style became even more austere. We speak of the ‘flat style’. Architects reduced decorative elements to an absolute minimum, dispensing with pilasters altogether, or using them only to emphasize the entrances of their buildings. The final stage of Dutch Classicism relies on a rhythmical approach to the arrangement of the various parts of the facade, on the inherent expressiveness of unadorned surfaces and well-cut window frames to achieve an effect of elegant simplicity and dignity. Decoration is relegated to the central bay, the entrance and the middle section of the cornice. The emphasis is placed on the central axis, which becomes more and more pronounced outside as well as inside the building. Adriaan Dortsman (1636-1682) is commonly considered the champion of the flat style, but it was Philips Vingboons who paved the way in 1638 when he designed Herengracht 168 and dispensed with pilasters for the first time.
Vingboons was versatile enough to adjust his designs to the new era. His design for Herengracht 412 (1664-1667) is basically a pilaster facade. However, he used pilasters only to articulate the middle ressault, leaving the adjacent bays unadorned. Subsequently, only flat facades were built. An important factor in the rise of the flat style was the increased building activity which resulted from the 1663 urban expansion plan. The ring of canals was expanded beyond the Leidsegracht, completing the crescent shape of the Amsterdam City centre. The new residential areas catered for the wealthy urban elite of the time, i.e. rich citizens who could afford large double mansions designed by the top-class architects of the time. Among the mansions designed by Vingboons in the flat style are: Herengracht 450 (1663) commissioned by Joseph Deutz; Keizersgracht 577 (1665) commissioned by Isaac Nijs and Herengracht 466 (The Eagle, 1669) owned by Jeronimus Haase.
After 1670 the younger generation of architects, with Adriaan Dortsman and Elias Bouman in the lead, continued to develop the new flat style. The facade of Herengracht 450 illustrates the typical Dortsman approach with its flat blocks of stone and pronounced joints which create the impression of a stylised form of rustication, while the corners are articulated by pilaster strips. More Dortsman facades: Herengracht 619 (1667-1669); Keizersgracht 672-674 (Van Raey Houses, 1671); Herengracht 462 (Sweedenrijk, Empire of Sweden, 1672); Amstel 216 (1672); Keizersgracht 730-734 (1672); the block which includes Herengracht 621-629 and Amstel 208-212 (1673). Keizersgracht 604 (Int Derde Vredejaar, Third Peaceyear, 1670), a flat brick facade, is also attributed to Dortsman.
The flat style is eminently suited to large double mansions, but the narrow single houses were affected by the new fashion as well. The neck-gable lost its pilasters and became a flat facade with sandstone ornaments relegated to the top gable.
Often the exuberant crolls which adorn the neck-gables at this time seem to compensate for the lack of decoration elsewhere. Elaborate sculptures of human figures and animals were often placed on either side of the neck. Examples: Herengracht 390-392 (1665), Herengracht 504-506 (1670), Herengracht 508-510 (1685).
The flat style neck-gable finally leads to the bell-shaped gable, when the area commonly reserved for the crolls was incorporated into the shape of the neck. This effect was achieved by using brick only and dispensing with the sandstone elements, e.g. Keizersgracht 716 (1671).
Throughout the 18th century the French court styles exerted a strong influence on Amsterdam architecture and interior design. Between 1700 and 1740, the Baroque or Louis XIV style predominated, followed by Rococo or Louis XV which was popular between 1740 and 1770 and Louis XVI or neo-Classicism (1770-1800). It is important to realize that the periodisation and classification of styles commonly used for Amsterdam canal houses does not coincide exactly with the traditional French subdivision. Foreign elements often did not make themselves felt in the north until well after they had appeared on the scene in their country of origin.
Louis XIV decoration started out as a somewhat heavy-handed, pompous and strictly symmetrical style, though at a later stage it lost some of its stiffness (more rocailles and shell motifs). In contrast, Louis XV decoration was by definition asymmetrical, light and fanciful. Louis XVI decoration looked back to the ideals of classical design, characterized by austerity, symmetry and taut outlines. Amsterdam canal houses became less exuberant, the cornice and fronton and classical apparatus were back on the scene.
Initially the French court styles were applied only to interior decoration. However, they soon found their way to the facades of the canal houses, articulating the central bay and the middle section of the cornice. The design of the rest of the facade is marked by a continuation of the flat style which was popular during the final decades of the preceding century. This brings us to the typical Amsterdam approach to the French style. Exuberant decorations were acceptable for the middle ressault and cornice, whereas the rest of the facade continued to be executed in a flat classical style. The same rule of thumb applies to the narrow single plot facades. Flamboyant French-style decoration was used for entrances and gable tops; the remainder of the facade was executed in an austere flat style.
Unfortunately, most of the architects active on the Amsterdam scene at this time remain unknown. Unlike 17th century architecture, 18th century architectural design is not dominated by a small group of trendsetting artists. The only big name is Daniכl Marot (1661-1752), but we do not know of any Amsterdam buildings designed by him, even though he stayed in Amsterdam from 1705 to 1717. His assistant, Jean Coulon (1678-1760), however, left some traces in Amsterdam architecture.
If it is true to say that 18th century Amsterdam lacks outstanding architects, the opposite holds true for sculptors. The Amsterdam version of the Louis XIV style was entirely dominated by Ignatius van Logteren (1685-1732), his son Jan (1709-1745) and their assistants and followers. The Van Logteren clan played such an important role in Amsterdam that they exterted a strong influence on the architectural design of e.g. Coulon. One may even be tempted to rename the Louis XIV period the Van Logteren era.
The French court styles were initially applied to interior decoration only. The French style was used on a large-scale to create elegant interiors in newly built houses, while older houses were often ‘fixed up’ with the help of Louis XIV, XV or XVI elements. Staircases and halls came to be covered in stucco decoration. Many of the single plot houses were given a rich monumental appearance for which the new decorative style soon proved the answer. The narrow corridors, running parallel with the left or right side walls, were provided with exuberant stucco decorations, while fake doors painted on the side wall opposite the real doors, helped to create an illusion of space.
Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is situated in the center Amsterdam: the hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary during World War II. Anne Frank was a normal girl in exceptional circumstances. For more than two years her diary described the events in her daily life.
Address: Prinsengracht 263
1016 GV Amsterdam
Amsterdam Historical Museum
The building in which the Amsterdam Historical Museum is located, goes back a long way. It was an orphanage for many years. In 1578 the Amsterdam City Council decided to house the orpans in this convent. The building was expanded in the 17th century. Until 1960 it housed orphans. After this year the building was restored with the aim to turn it into a museum. Most of the building was preserved in its original state. The entrance gate at Kalverstraat dates from 1581!
Address: Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 359
1012 RM Amsterdam
Jewish Historical Museum Amsterdam
Four former synagogues house the Jewish Historical Museum. The oldest of the four synagogues was constructed in 1670. The architect was Daniel Stalpaert.
Address: Jonas Daniel Meijerplein 2 4
1011 RH Amsterdam
The Rijksmuseum is sometimes called Holland’s treasure trove. The largest museum for art and history in the Netherlands, is world famous for its collection.
Address: Stadhouderskade 42
1071 ZD Amsterdam