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Amsterdam's Architecture Over The Ages

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Amsterdam's Architecture Over The Ages

Amsterdam has witnessed many architectural changes during its existence as a capital. From its earliest canal houses to its recent "modernisation", it is a widespread array of fascinating design and architecture. Throughout this short guide, I wish to take you through these ages, demonstrating the designs, the reasons for them, the way of living and the way the architecture developed around the community. This guide focuses mainly on the last one hundred years, looking in depth at the gradual changes made to this great city, and its surrounding areas. I will also look at the great architectural achievements made over time in this area, looking at their design purposes and influences.

Older architecture

Central Amsterdam ages back to over 700 years, but most of the buildings seen today were built in Amsterdam's "Golden age", about 250-500 years ago.

The "Golden age" was the period when most of what is now known as central Amsterdam was built. Some people think it is Amsterdam's best architectural achievement. Probably the most prominent building built within this time period is the canal house. These line all the canals in the centre of Amsterdam. Every canal house was built to be unique from any other, though built with the same shape, each one was personalised with an ornamental piece, such as the gables and plaques. Another method was to put very decorative carvings on the "neck" of a house. This is called "necking".

The picture on the right is an excellent example of necking.

Due to the swamp like quality of the reclaimed land under Amsterdam, it was very hard to build buildings. Because of this wooden stilts were used to support the houses. They were driven into the wet ground before construction for support. Now due to the wet ground some of these supports are rotting, causing houses to tilt and sink into the earth. The picture on the left is of a house on the Keizergracht, it has gradually sunk into the ground over the years causing it to lean sideways.

During the time period in which these houses were built, your house taxes depended on the frontage. Meaning your taxes were determined by the width of your house. Therefore the sneaky Dutch built their houses deep and narrow to avoid severe taxing. For this same reason the staircases are very narrow and low, making it impossible to take furniture up and down them.
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