From Overtoom, the building looks ‘closed’, which is understandable when you realize that you are in fact looking at the rear side of a building that used to be ‘walled in’. For many years, buildings stood in front of this side of the riding school. The main entrance is not here but is located on the other side, at number 140 Vondelstraat.
The Hollandsche Manege was built in 1881-82 to replace the riding school of the same name in Leidsenpleinbuurt, which was demolished in 1881. An ideal location for the new building was found in the upmarket Vondelparkbuurt. This was where the exclusive clients of the riding school lived and the park could be used for outdoor riding.
The interior of the building is surprisingly festive and luxurious. The main space is the large rectangular riding ring. The combination of old-fashioned, palace-like decorated walls with a functional roof structure with iron trusses, which was modern for its time, is highly unusual. A beautifully preserved staircase gives access to a stylish foyer with a wide balcony that looks out over the riding ring. Underneath this balcony is the so-called ‘opstijgplaats’, or mounting area.
The architect A.L. van Gendt (1835-1901), who designed many buildings in Amsterdam, always chose an architectural style that he himself, or the client, thought appropriate for a project. He designed the Hollandsche Manege, a riding palace for the urban elite, in a festive classical style, modelling it on the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Van Gendt used the same style once again in his design for the Amsterdam Concertgebouw (1886), although here he concealed the roof structure behind a ceiling.
In the second half of the last century, the riding school was acquired by investors and property developers, who wanted to demolish it. A campaign by local residents, users of the riding school and architecture lovers, however, succeeded in saving the building and it was restored in the 1980s. Now a national listed building, it is still in use as a riding school.
(Text: Dave Wendt / ARCAM, photo: Jan de Wit)