Telephone exchange

Herengracht 295
Dienst Publieke Werken, projectarchitect C. van der Wilk
Plaatselijke Telefoondienst
Tram 1, 2, 5, 20.
J.W. van As, 'Vernieuwing telefooncentrale Herengracht', Werk in Uitvoering 5 (1956), p. 432-434; B. Rebel en G. Vermeer (red.), d'Ailly's historische gids van Amsterdam, Den Haag 1992.

Twentieth-century utility-building in canal facade

The Local Telephone Service building, which had been erected on Herengracht shortly after the First World War, was demolished in 1954. The foundations and structure were not designed to carry the weight of the machinery of a telephone exchange. The new building was built around a steel frame. In view of the building’s function, considerable attention was devoted to insulation, which was achieved through the use of insulating roofing sheets, double glazing and cellular concrete slabs in the facade.

The ground floor houses offices and various technical facilities. In the basement are a bicycle storage facility and service spaces. The three upper storeys contain the ‘automaton rooms’, the heart of the exchange. These rooms are situated across the entire width of the building; they measure 42.5 by 11.5 metres. The telephone exchange is one of the few large postwar buildings in an Amsterdam canal frontage. The layout of the facade is based on the systems measurement of the steel frame. The facade is clad with yellow stone and is articulated by means of grey natural stone bands. Three bronze bay windows and a bronze entrance provide accents in the 43 metre wide facade. The serrated cornice is provided with a canopy which projects eighty centimetres beyond the building. Despite the effort made to integrate the building in the canal frontage through the articulation of the facade, it has always come in for considerable criticism: the ‘large-scale and misshapen monster’ was deemed to mar the rhythm of the facade frontage. (ARCAM/JEA)