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Favorite thing: The NIOD or the Nederlands Instituut voor oorlogs-, holocaust- en genocidestudies Documentatiecentrum (Dutch Institute for war-, holocaust-and genocide studies) is housed in beautiful canal house at the Herengracht 380 build for Jacobus Nienhuys, a tobacco planter in 1890. A fire damaged the adjacent house, that was bought by Jacobus to create a wider house with an entrance for a horse drawn carriage.
From 1909 the house became the head office for the branch of the Deutsche Bank and a local office of the Finance Ministerie.
- Historical Travel
Favorite thing: I was more than surprised to see so many buildings of modern and contemporary architecture in Amsterdam. They are an interesting contrast to the 17th and 18th century canal houses of the old town.
Among the buildings which I found well worth seeing is the so called Silodam, which was completed in 2002 after designs of the Dutch architects MVRDV. It is a resturcturing project at the end of a pier of former warehouses . The Silodam consists of 157 building units in a 10 storey high rectangular housing silo. The pier with the Silodam is situated in the Oude Houthaven at the lake IJ.
At the Westerdokseiland, which was Amsterdam's former train depot, several modern residential buildings were finished in the last ten years. Many of them have cantilevered balconies with panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Also on the Oosterdok and the Ooserdokseiland large construction sites for ultra modern buildings can be found. The area is located just east of the Central Railway Station.
- Budget Travel
Amsterdam Passenger Terminal - 2000
Favorite thing: Every year more than 100 cruise ships embark from the Amsterdam Passenger Terminal, located in a "chain" of stunning new glass and steel structures along Oostelijke Handelskade. Designed by the international branch of the American architectural firm of Hellmuth Obata + Kassebaum, or HOK. Apparently, some people say that the Passenger Terminal intentionally resembles a wave, which others say that it's a whale. I report, you decide!
Incidentally, Messrs. Helmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum were all graduates of Washington University in St. Louis, which was also my alma mater. HOK now employs architects all over the world and is one of the largest international architectural firms.
Lloyd Hotel - 1920
Favorite thing: This "new" boutique hotel has a fascinating history that is far removed from its present "four star" trendiness!
It was originally constructed specifically to be a transient and temporary housing facility for new emigrants from Eastern Europe - most of whom were just passing through on their way to the Americas. As many as 900 people were expected to be accomodated here, with separate facilities for single men and well, as well as larger units for entire families. If emigrants did not meet the strict health and sanitation requirements, they would be detained here for weeks or months, and eventually might be forced to return to their homes in Europe.
Later, during World War II, the occupying Nazis used the building as a detention and interrogation center. And after the war was over, the new Dutch government transformed the place into a low security detention center!
The present incarnation of the Lloyd has witnessed its transformation to a four star hotel with a trendy location and fashionably historic decor. It's as if the unhappiness of so many people who stayed here is being tempered the laughs and leisures of the new high-flying elite. So it goes!
It's worth entering the Lloyd for a glimpse at the dining room (one of the old eating halls) and the bar (the main waiting room). Some beautiful restoration work was performed throughout the facility - creative re-use, certainly.
- Historical Travel
Hoop, Liefde en Fortuin Block - 2002
Favorite thing: De Hoop (Hope), De Liefde (Love), and Het Fortuin (Fortune) were three sawmills that occupied this stretch of land close to the IJ river for many decades. The mills are gone but their names remain with this new large apartment/condo block at the western end of Borneo Island.
I read that the designer, Rudy Uytenhaak, won the Zuiderkerk Award for this structure: "A beautiful, robust sculpture," said the jury of Amsterdam's Town Housing Department. In the building are 202 apartments and 167 condos: density is the way to go!
Scheepstimmerstraat - 2001
Favorite thing: This residential development on Borneo Island introduces a little piece of Venice into the harbor area! What makes it especially noteworthy is that the new houses in this section of the island were each designed separately, as part of a "Live in a house of your own design" competition!
The Whale (Sporenburg Island) -- 2000
Favorite thing: This whole "east side" of Amsterdam is being developed as a showcase of interesting design. (I do wish it had been a brighter day when I was there - I'm sure the buildings look a lot more impressive when the sun is out.)
The Whale is a provocatively-designed residential structure on G.A. Tindalplein. Its exterior is covered with zinc plates, and at this angle it really does resemble a whale. (Do whales have scales? Hmmm. . . ) Chief designer was Frits von Dongen.
Downside: the courtyard is small and rather institutional. Prisonlike? Well, on a cloudy day, yes.
Skydome ("Black Widow" tower) - 1995
Favorite thing: KNSM is a man-made island just to the east of Java island, and is an additional area of urban development and redevelopment in this former industrial/shipping area. At 21 stories (60 meters), the so-called "Skydome" is currently the tallest residential block in the Netherlands, but it may soon have a neighboring tower which is much higher - 150 meters in all!
The designer is from the Dutch province of Limburg, Wiel Arets. I'm sure the views from the top units are impressive, but I can't say that I'm impressed with this dour and grim structure. It harks back to an earlier era of urban design - not one with many positive attributes, I'd say.
New Canal Houses on Java Island - late 1990s
Favorite thing: Java Island is a development of new condos and apartments on land that once made up the heart of Amsterdam's harbor. In the mid 1990s, it became one of Europe's largest construction sites, as thousands of new residential units were created on what had once been waste land.
Java Island was planned by a famous Dutch landscape architect, Sjoerd Soeters. He "divided" the island into five segments, defined by four new narrow canals that have provided a distinctive "Amsterdammish" feel for this very modern area. Each of the canalside houses is just 4.5 meters wide, and usually four or five stories tall. Good use of space!
The new canals are Brantasgracht, Lamonggracht, Majanggracht, and Seranggracht.
Another interesting feature of Java Island is that instead of it being the work of a single architectural team, many different designers from different firms contributed their own ideas. These makes the place less uniform, more "urban." Too bad there's not more "mixed use development" - I saw very little retail here!
Also interesting are the pedestrial bridges that cross the canal - some beautiful iron work on them!
Pakhuis Amsterdam - 1885
Favorite thing: Warehouse conversions are a big feature of the international architectural scene - part of a trend of re-invigorating central cities. It's a major "fact of life" that oldest cities all around the world - from New York and Boston to Hamburg and Amsterdam - no longer need all those massive brick buildings to store manufactured goods - the production has shifted to China and the global south. At the same time, there's an appreciation for the strength and integrity that marked the construction of these landmarks 100 or 150 years ago.
So here in Amsterdam - as in Manchester England and Manchester New Hampshire - you will find industrial warehouses converted to condos and offices. The Pakhuis Amsterdam is now the home to a number of internationally minded organizations - including Greenpeace! I think it's interesting that it was originally built as a cocoa warehouse in the 1880s.
Bibliotheek - (Public Library) - 2007
Favorite thing: Amsterdam has a wonderful new public library located just to the east of the Centraal Station on Oosterdokskade. There are fascinating contemporary art displays alongside state-of-the-art information technology, and a public cafeteria with wholesome food on one of the upper levels. Comfortable furniture and excellent views of the city make this library a must-see for all those interested in libraries, books, and contemporary architecture!
You might also like to check out my Travelogue for the library - more photos located there.
- Arts and Culture
Favorite thing: Haarlemmerpoort - standing at the end of Haarlemmerdijk, next to the Singel canal - is the only remaining "city gate". Originally, similar archways guarded all the major routes into the city. Most of the old fortifications were removed when Amsterdam experienced a growth spurt in the middle of the 19th century.
The Haarlemmerpoort was taken over by the city government in 1825 and given a major facelift under the direction of architect C. Alewijn.
de Bazel building (Vijzelstraat 32) - 1926
Favorite thing: The de Bazel building is a classic modernist structure from the 1920s, located in the business center of the city. I like how it is now named after its architect, Karel de Bazel, who actually died in 1923 before the building was completed.
In the manner of other classic architects from about the same time around the world, de Bazel wished to integrate all of the arts in one building. It reminds me of the work of Louis Sullivan in the USA or Otto Wagner in Vienna.
The building was first used as the center for a trade association, later it served as a bank headquarters, and now it is home to the archives of the city of Amsterdam.
Muziekgebouw and Bimhuis - 2007
Favorite thing: The area immediately to the east of the Centraal Station is an exciting center of bold 21st architecture, and is certainly key to Amsterdam's rebranding itself as a haven for contemporary design and innovation. One of the most important project is the bold arts center of the Muziekgebouw and the Bimhuis, which provides spaces for contemporary music in all its different incarnations, from "contemporary classical" to jazz to world to electronic to samba and beyond.
The project was funded entirely by the city of Amsterdam itself - a vote of confidence and trust in the centrality of the arts, a modern version of the 19th century Concertgebouw. Way to go, Amsterdam!
The project is the work of the modern Danish firm "3XNielsen" - from Aarhus.
Amsterdam Conservatory - 2008
Favorite thing: Amsterdam's waterfront has witnessed some dramatic and exciting new construction in recent years. A very new addition to the burgeoning area to the east of the Centraal Station is the brand-spanking new Amsterdam Conservatory - the Conservatorium van Amsterdam - which in April 2008 opened its new building on Oosterdokskade.
The architect, contemporary Dutchman Frits von Dongen, employs a Japanese aesthetic here: note how the hallways are on the exterior of the building, while the classrooms, practice rooms and performing spaces are on the interior.
Underground parking and access is a nice touch, too.
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Amsterdam Travel Guide
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