Essential Architecture-  Amsterdam

De Waag




Amsterdam, Holland




mediaeval vernacular with Romanesque elements


originally one of the city gates, the Sint Anthoniespoort


The Waag ("Weigh House") is a remnant of the former city walls in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Constructed in 1488, it was originally one of the city gates, the Sint Anthoniespoort. When the city wall disappeared, the Nieuwmarkt (new market) was created around it and the weighing scales for the market were placed in the former gate. The name stems from that period (Waag is an old Dutch word for scale). Today the building houses the Waag Society, an ICT research foundation working in the social and cultural domain, and there is a café/restaurant on the ground floor.

The building carries the oldest plaque in Amsterdam, which reads On 28 April 1488 the first stone of this gate was laid.

The city walls that the Sint Anthoniespoort was part of were built in the years 1481-1494. These walls have now completely disappeared and the only remnants are this gate, the lower part of another gate, the Regulierspoort (now the Munttoren) and one defence tower, the Schreierstoren. When in the late 16th century the city expanded the wall was torn down and the gate lost its function. The defensive canal and palissade around the gate was turned into a market square. In the process the ground level was raised, so the building is no longer quite as high as it used to be. For the new weighing function the original front and rear gate were connected with a roof.

The upper floors housed four guilds for some time, namely those of the smiths, painters, masons and surgeons. Each guild had its own entrance tower. In 1632 Rembrandt van Rijn was commissioned to paint the surgeons at work, and the resulting Anatomical Lesson of Dr. Tulp made his name. In 1691 a theatrum anatomicum was added, which became famous for admitting (paying) members of the public to witness human dissections.

After the guilds were dissolved around 1795 the building served numerous purposes, later housing a fire brigade and two museums before it was handed over to a foundation in 1990. This had plans to partly destroy the building and build an addition designed by Philippe Starck, but the foundation went bankrupt before any plans were carried out. The neighbourhood and monument lovers convinced the Amsterdam city council that the building deserved a better fate. It was decided to restore it in keeping with its medieval background. Waag Society became the principal tenant in 1996.

There is also a Waag (weigh house) in other Dutch towns, including Alkmaar, Gouda, Leeuwarden and Vlaardingen.