Damrak 243
De Wallen
H.P Berlage
Gemeente Amsterdam
5 minuten lopen vanaf het Centraal Station
Manfred Bock et al., H.P. Berlage en Amsterdam, Amsterdam 1987.
Commercieel, Cultuur, Leisure

Former commodity exchange, now cultural centre

The architect H.P. Berlage is considered to be the father of modern architecture in the Netherlands mainly because of his design for the Exchange. With this building, Berlage succeeded in freeing himself of the historicizing styles and gave architecture a rational basis, in which he subordinated decoration to architectural elements. The Amsterdam School and the Nieuwe Bouwen (the Dutch Modern Movement) were strongly influenced by the ideas Berlage expressed in the Exchange. Because of the collaboration with poets, sculptors and painters, including J. Toorop, R.N. Roland Holst and J. Mendes da Costa, the Exchange is a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’.

The construction of a new exchange had been delayed for more than fifteen years when, in 1896, Berlage was engaged to give advice. Through the agency of M.W.F. Treub, alderman for public works, this soon led to a design by Berlage and an official building commission. This took place in great secrecy; the public did not see the final design until it was ready to be realized. Berlage’s first design was still full of Dutch Renaissance decorations, but in later versions, he gradually removed ‘superfluous’ embellishments. What remained were austere, brick elevations, each of which has a different character, restrained ornamentation and a visible, iron roof. The building’s users did not appreciate its avant-garde character. The many bare, unplastered brick walls were so unpopular that wall hangings were placed in front of them. The three halls in the exchange were given a cultural function following the restoration in 1990. (ARCAM/JV)