The Nederlandsche Palmitine Fabriek, situated between Van Hallstraat and Kostverlorenvaart, closed less than ten years after it opened, but the factory determined the site’s industrial use for 125 years. This changed in 2000 with the completion of the housing complex Meander (photo).
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the industrial revolution took hold in Amsterdam. Efficient production and technological developments turned centuries-old industries upside down. The candle-making industry, for example, in which tallow candles had been the norm for generations. These candles had been produced in small workshops using animal fat and were inexpensive but of a poor quality.
From 1850 onwards, new techniques and increase in scale resulted in better candles. One of the largest candle-making companies was the Nederlandsche Palmitine Fabriek, which had 320 employees in 1867. Its size brought with it problems. Market gardeners complained about the sulphuric waste water the factory discharged into the Kostverlorenvaart and so the city council closed the factory temporarily. In 1872, the factory finally closed down for good, not because of pollution but due to fierce competition.
In 1875, the vacant factory buildings were converted into a bonded warehouse where imported goods, intended for transit, were stored without incurring import duties. When the bonded warehouse relocated, the site became an ‘ordinary’ industrial estate with, among other things, a distribution centre for the postal service. By the end of the twentieth century, however, many companies had left the site due to its increasing inaccessibility.
In the 1990s, the site was converted to a new use. Rob Krier and Christoph Kohl designed a complex with 204 dwellings, a library, a school and commercial units. The design broke with the prevailing austere and above all functional architecture. The result is a collection of individual yet interconnected elements, each of which is decorated in a different way. Moreover, the design takes as its starting point the forms and proportions of classical architecture.
The meandering form of the ground plan gives virtually every dwelling a view of the water and created space for various more or less enclosed inner courtyards. Salient detail: due to a council error, the car-free Van der Palmkade (named after the factory?) became the property of residents and is probably the only privately owned street in Amsterdam. It is, however, accessible to the public. (Text: Ivo Hendriks / ARCAM, photo: Jan de Wit)