Essential Architecture-  Amsterdam


Revival Styles

Rokin 145-147
a 17th century raised neck-gable (Dutch Classicism) on the left and a 19th century stepped gable (neo-Renaissance) on the right

From about 1815 onwards architects started to revert back to older styles such as Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. The revival or neo-styles were not always consistent. Sometimes elements derived from several older styles were combined in a single building (so- called eclecticism). During the 1880s Amsterdam benefited from a major economic revival. Funds were made available to realise large-scale building projects which included a large number of public buildings and new residential areas, but very few canal houses. This is the period of the neo-Renaissance style. Architects harked back to the hey-day of Dutch Renaissance architecture, the Golden Age of the 17th century. In this way they emphasised the feeling that the 19th century heralded another, a second golden age.

Neo-Grec (1815-1845)

Neo-Grec is one manifestation of the neo-classical style and, characteristically, a transitional phase between late 18th century classicism and the 19th century revival styles. Typical of neo- Grec are: classical design including pillars, architraves, frontons, etc. and whitewashed interiors. Some examples: the Hall of Justice (Prinsengracht) by De Greef (1784-1835), the Church of Moses and Aaron (Waterlooplein) by Suys (1783-1861) and the Willemspoort (Haarlemmerplein) by Alewijn (1788-1839).

Willem II/Neo-Gothic Architecture (1830-1860)

The Gothic revival, advocated by king William II, did not catch on in Amsterdam. This particular Gothic style aimed at executing in plaster elements which, in medieval days, traditionally belonged to the realm of the stone mason and the bricklayer. One Amsterdam representative of this style is the Papegaai Church in Kalverstraat (i.e. ‘the parrot’ named after the old conventicle from which the church derived its name) built in 1848 by the architect Moele (1796-1857).

Eclecticism (1850-1880)

The eclectic style combines several older styles into a new unity. Examples: the Dutch National Bank (now Allard Pierson Museum, Oude Turfmarkt) built in 1868-1869 by Froger (1812-1883); the Amstel Hotel (1864-1867) and Museum Fodor (1861-1862), Keizersgracht 609 by Outshoorn (1812-1875). Outshoorn also designed the houses Keizersgracht 452 (1860) and Keizersgracht 806-808. Several mansions on Sarphatistraat and in the Plantage area belong to this category as well.

Later Neo-Styles (1880-1900)

Reguliersgracht 57-59 (1879)
sketch by I. Gosschalk

In the 1880s and 1890s some of the revival styles gain the upperhand. Neo-Gothic and neo- Renaissance architecture, as well as combinations of the two, are applied on a large scale even to houses and shops. Especially interesting are the Gothic Revival churches designed by Cuypers (Posthorn, 1861-1889; Vondel Church, 1870-1880; Dominicus 1884-1886). These churches very much belong to the late 19th century emancipatory movement of the Dutch Catholics whose faith had been officially banned for centuries and who had now regained official status resulting in the building of large numbers of churches. The Gothic revival style with strong reminders of medieval cathedrals was associated especially with Roman Catholicism. A development somewhat similar to the Gothic Revival on the British Isles led by Pugin.

A most peculiar neo-Gothic house is the wooden house on Reguliersgracht 57-59, designed by Gosschalk (1838-1907).

NZ Voorburgwal 381-383 (1884)
sketch by A.C. Bleijs

Some characteristic examples of neo-Renaissance architecture are: Stadsschouwburg, Leidseplein (1894) and Stedelijk Museum, Paulus Potterstraat. In the area of residential architecture the stepped gable made a comeback: Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 381-383 (1884) and Rokin 147 (1884). In 1894 Salm (1857-1915) built what is perhaps the most splendid neo-Renaissance canal house in Amsterdam: Herengracht 380-382. The richly decorated architecture harks back to the early days of the French Renaissance (Francis I) and is unique among Dutch neo-Renaissance canal houses.

Among the less frequently occurring revival styles are the Viennese Classicism of the Concertgebouw (1883-1886) and the Hollandsche Manege (1880) for which the architect Van Gendt (1835-1901) was responsible and the neo-Baroque which formed the basis of the unique and rare Church of St. Nicholas (Prins Hendrikkade) by Bleys (1842-1912) who also designed Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 381-383.

Centraal Station (1882-1889)

Gothic and Renaissance revival styles were often used in combination. Some telling examples are the Rijksmuseum (1877-1885) and the Central Station (1882-1889) both by Cuypers and the former Post Office, now Magna Plaza Shopping Centre, by Peters (1847-1932).

The 19th century revival styles were not reserved for public buildings and houses. Many shops were built based on a combination of neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance: Kalverstraat 190 (1891); Kalverstraat 200 (1893); Nieuwendijk 89 (1887) and Leidsestraat 59, corner of Kerkstraat (1888), all designed by Van Arkel (1858-1918). Van Looy (1852-1911) was another architect who is associated with shop design: Allert de Lange, Damrak 62 (1886) and Keizersgracht 455, corner of Leidsestraat (1891).


Special thanks to the Amsterdam Bureau of Monuments and Archeology website,