The canalside townhouses of central Amsterdam are tall with mulitple stories and narrow because taxes were based on frontage. Each has a steep high roof, fronted by a variety shaped gables. The gables come in six principal shapes and lend a welcome variety to the otherwise monotonous facades.
1 - point - the most basic gable is shaped like the triangular roof behind it.
2 - cornice - makes a pointed roof appear horizontal.
3 - step - triangular and lined with steps
4 - bell - looks like a bell.
5 - spout - a rectangle at the peak
6 - neck - a broad straight segment setting atop rounded contours described as shoulders.
Three things that make Amsterdam's old houses special:
Firstly, those decorative tops of the houses (I'm sure there is some formal name for it, can someone give me a hint?), each house having its own pattern.
Secondly, some houses are so incredibly narrow that it's hard to imagine that you can actually live in it (See that picture I took in Begijnhof!)
Finally, most buildings have a facade which is actually leaning forward and a big hook attached at the top. Why? Because all the furniture you want to move in- or out of the house has to be lifted through the windows, the staircases are far too narrow and too steep to allow any manoeuvres (even with a suitcase!). The hook at the top is for the rope on which the furniture is lifted and the leaning front helps you move things up. (Begijnhof once again provided a perfect example. Plus it's about the only sunny picture I have from Amsterdam :)
Don't forget to look up at the houses along the canals to see some beautiful gables (frontpieces at roof level) these also helped identify houses prior to house numbers & hid the roof from view. The main types of gable is the spout gable, the neck or bottle gable, the clock gable, the bell gable and the step gable
The hoist built into the gable is to lift furniture into the large removable windows as the stairs are too narrow & winding to get any furniture up that way.
You'll also notice the way the houses lean this is for various reasons I think something to do with rain water, the other is so the furniture don't bump into them, also it makes it easier to admire the facade from the street which is good news for us tourists.
I was amazed at the architecture of Amsterdam .. there are niches on the wall of buildings overlooking the canals with saints and other decorative items; gables of wonderful intricacy; statues on the tops of buildings ...... I'm not an architect, and certainly don't know the proper terms - but be sure to look up as you are wandering the city to experience another wonderful sight on every block!
Fondest memory: This is a detail of the top of Koninklijk Palace in Dam Sqaure - though a palace is supposed to have this sort of detailing - you'll find this sort of thing EVERYWHERE!!!
As I already told you, there are different kinds of gables determining a certain period.
Here you can see the neck gable. It dates from the second half of the 17th century and can be recognised by two angles of 90 degrees. The edges have nice decorations.
Seven thousand houses determine the extraordinary architecture along the canals. Most houses were built in the 17th and 18th century and each period has its own gable.
Fondest memory: Walking along the canals and admiring the different architecture.
About 20.000 buildings make up the historical city centre on 800 hectares. One third was built before 1850. Many of this buildings are carefully preserved and declared national or municipal monuments. Moreover, the city centre is eligible for a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Amsterdam is not a city of churches and palaces, but of monumental mansions along the canals. The only two palaces in Amsterdam are the Royal Palace and the Trippenhuis, but even this was not the home of any royalty.
The long rows of narrow houses are the main feature of the buildings in Amsterdam. And this form was because the city's building taxes were based on house frontage, so the narrow the facade, the less tax. Nevertheless, the depth of the house compensates, making them bigger from inside the seen from the outside. One should enter a 'narrow' house to see the real space inside.
The typical 'step gable' houses features many big windows with shutters all over the facade, allowing as much sunlight as possible.
Another interesting feature of the row canal houses is the pulley on top of 99% of the houses. This pulley is necessary in order to bring the large furniture inside the house. Because of the narrow facade, the entrance door and more over, the space for maneuvering the furniture inside, the stairs and everything, do not permit the furniture to be introduced like in a normal house. Than, the furniture is lifted with the help of the pulley and introduced trough the big windows.
Fondest memory: Narrow facade, big windowed, and not one missing the pulley canal houses.
The facades come in many different forms in Amsterdam. But espcially along the canals there are some great examples to be found.
In the picture are neck-gables (1640 – 1770)
Made in the 17th century and can be recognised by the two angles of 90 degrees. The corners have decorations of various motives. The neck-gable was built throughout the 18th century.
Favorite thing: The "Klok"gevels (Clock, Bell facades) are a type that is very easily mixed with the "Hals" facades. Differences should be seeked in the fact that a "Clock" has a somewhat widened top-part or does not have the square form in the middlesection of the top-facade. They came to be between 1660 and 1790 and are mostly in bases from brick stones. It slowly wins in popularity and is sometimes nicknamed "dented Neck" facades.
Favorite thing: During the period of Dutch Classicism the "Hals"-gevel (Neck-facade) was developed. Mostly it was a renovation on a "trap" (stair) facade and tried to hide the pointy roof. The "Hals" facades were very popular from 1640 until 1775 and are most typical for Amsterdam (this means they are less represented in other Dutch towns. Often this style of top has beautiful mirroring decorations on either side of the "Neck".
Favorite thing: The "trapgevel" (staircase facade) is a facade that has a staircase-like top. In this style diagonal lines are as less as possible used and the stairs hide the sides of the roof from the eye. It was commonly built in between 1600 and 1665, but had a revival in the 19th century.
The wonderful gable end canal houses, that seem to go on and on, nearly never ending. They are so beautiful, both large and small. On a bright sunny morning it's an ever-lasting memory
Fondest memory: When ever you see a gable end house, anywhere, you will always think of Amsterdam
Much like my home city of San Francisco, Amsterdam's architectural beauty lies in the countless residential buildings. From the 16th to the 17th centuries and beyond, many of the homes were built with gables, which served not only to hide the roofs from public view, but also to identify the houses until the number system was introduced in 1795.
Pictured here is an example of the neck gable, also known as the bottle gable. This design was introduced in the 1640's and was continued off and on through the 19th century.
The spout gable was a copy of the earliest wooden gables. This particular design was used primarily for warehouses from the 1580's to the 1700's.
Notice the huge beam sticking out above the top window? This is used to hoist goods into the attic and furniture into the removable windows below.
Favorite thing: At first glance, Amsterdam's gable architecture resembled something from a fairytale. The various types of gable architecture - neck, bell, stoop, step (pictured)and ????? - can be seen all over the city, predominantly overlooking the canals.