See also: history
| The Venice of the North
In the course of the 17th century the famous crescent shape of the Amsterdam city centre was designed and realised resulting in the unique ring of canals. A number of narrow streets and canals, fanning out from the centre of the crescent, traversed the network of concentric semicircular canals. On the outskirts of the city centre, the canals ended in squares, where the city gates were located. The squares were used as parking places, since vehicles were not always allowed into the city itself. The Venice of the North consists of approx. 90 islands, separated by some 100 kilometres of canals and linked by about 400 stone bridges.
Aerial view of the old city centre.
About 20,000 buildings make up the historical city centre (800 hectares). One third was built before 1850. About half of all building in the center are either declared national monuments, municipal monuments, or are labelled "original premises" because of their intrinsic cultural historical interest. This monumental whole is included in the list of protected Dutch cityscapes. Moreover, the city centre is eligible for a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. After all, Amsterdam is the proud owner of one of the most important intact historical city centres of the world.
Citizens' architecture prevails
|Amsterdam is not
a city of churches and palaces, but of monumental mansions. The only two
houses in Amsterdam worthy of the name palace are the Royal
Palace in the Dam Square and the Trippenhuis, Kloveniersburgwal 29.
And even these two were not commissioned by royalty or aristocratic patrons.
Originally, the Royal Palace was designed to serve as Amsterdam's town hall
and the Trippenhuis was built for wealthy citizens.
Historical photograph showing the former town hall (1648-55), now the Royal Palace.
The monumental character of the Amsterdam
city centre is largely determined by numerous 17th and 18th century houses,
once owned by wealthy merchants and prominent citizens. Moreover, the
warehouses deserve mention. Amsterdam warehouse architecture is unique
in the world. Most of the state controlled monuments, however, are dwellings.
The ring of canals (Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht;
Dutch "gracht" means "canal") is the location of approx. 2,200 buildings,
1,550 of which are listed as historic buildings. Amsterdam's beauty is
largely determined by the style of these buildings, better described as
"citizens' architecture". The choice of this style was a conscious one.
The aim: to replace the Gothic style with its vertical accents and religious
overtones by a profane Classicist style. The Royal Palace e.g. contains
many supreme examples of symbolism derived from Classical Antiquity.
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