Felix Meritis

Keizersgracht 324
Jacob Otten Husly
genootschap Felix Meritis
Tram 1, 2, 5, halte Spui
- Maaike Behm, Maarten Kloos (ed.), 25 Buildings you should have seen - Amsterdam, Amsterdam, 2002.

Canal building of a society for arts and science

The building of the former society ‘Felix Meritis’ (happy through merit) is a typical monument of the Enlightenment. In its day, the society, which promoted the arts and sciences, was a very progressive organization and for many years the building was a cultural centre in Amsterdam. Its construction was controversial because a number of houses on Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht had to be demolished and the building was twice as high as the original buildings. The design by Husly is therefore now regarded as an early example of increase in scale.

The rich detailing on the facade in five sculpted reliefs symbolizes the society’s departments – the visual arts and architecture, literature, trade, natural sciences and music. The triangular pediment supported by four colossal Corinthian half-columns is characteristic of the neoclassical style. Most of the building was rebuilt following a fire in 1932. Mainly for this reason, of the original interior only the central staircase, the domed roof and the oval concert hall remain. The concert hall is still renowned for its excellent acoustics and for this reason, as regards dimensions, served as the model for the small hall in the Concertgebouw. In 1998, work began on a lengthy, complete restoration of the interior. (ARCAM/JV)