The neo-Renaissance building, which was completed in 1892, was contracted out for 92,600 guilders. Critics appealed to the city council to invest more in the Raadhuis, or town hall. The editors of the architecture magazine De Opmerker expressed their doubts regarding the adequacy of the budget: ‘Now it is not yet too late, we believe that the city council should consider not implementing their commendable plan by halves so as not to be faced later with an irreversible fait accompli, whereas with a relatively small increase in costs a town hall can be procured which will attest to future generations the artistic sense of today’s administrators of Nieuweramstel’. They preferred the original, rather lavish design (see second illustration) by the architect Roelof Kuipers, but the council opted for a more sober building for budgetary reasons. For example, the tops of the side elevations were replaced by roof windows and there is less sandstone and fewer sculptures than in the original design.
For all that, it is still a striking building and was admired to the extent that it acquired a lookalike. In 1913 a new town hall opened in Kerkrade, whose exterior architecture was almost entirely based on the building on Amsteldijk.
For almost a century, the building fulfilled an important function for Amsterdam. After having served briefly as a town hall, it was taken into use to house the Gemeentearchief, or municipal archives. Together with the neighbouring former diamond-cutting factory (the monumental Asschergebouw) and six other buildings (now demolished), it housed ‘Amsterdam’s memory’. In 2007, the archives were moved to the building ‘De Bazel’ on Vijzelstraat. Moving the forty kilometres of centuries-old, fragile archives and collections was a huge operation. The Gemeentearchief is now called ‘Stadsarchief’, or Amsterdam city archives.
New build plans
The building on Amsteldijk has lain vacant since 2007. A redevelopment scheme for the building and its grounds is currently underway. The scheme provides for a parking garage, (creative) businesses, housing, a hotel, a theatre and a school. The demolished buildings have freed up space for new build and two new urban squares. The aim is for a multifunctional use of the area, which will be characterized by high quality new build and the authentic aura of the former Raadhhuis and diamond-cutting factory. Once again the future will tell whether the plan attests to the ‘artistic sense of today’s administrators’.
(Max Smit /ARCAM)