Essential Architecture-  Amsterdam


Neck-gables (±1640-±1775)

17th Century

The style we call Dutch Classicism represents a very important phase in the history of Dutch architecture. However, when architects set out to build single canal house facades in this style, they had to face up to a challenge. The cornice, a popular type of top gable for double houses, was not a viable option in the case of the narrow single houses. Remember that the steep saddle roofs were placed at right angles to the facades so that the triangular front was visible from the street, unless it was hidden from view. A classical cornice was not high enough to disguise the ridge of the roof. Consequently a taller type of gable top was required. The neck- gable, common between approximately 1640 and 1775, was a typically Amsterdam answer to the problem sketched above. In actual fact the neck-gable is a logical development of the stepped gable. All the steps were eliminated except the large one at the top (note that raised neck-gables have one extra step). The oldest known neck-gables are 10-12 Koestraat, rented houses built in 1611. But these are exceptions. The first real neck-gable is Herengracht 168 (1638) designed by Philips Vingboons. Oudezijds Voorburgwal 239 (1634) is an example of the transitional phase between stepped and neck-gable. But the so-called raised neck-gable is a more common intermediate type. Raised neck-gables were frequently built between approx. 1640 and 1670 and are contemporary with the first proper neck-gables. Philips Vingboons was the founding father of this type of gable top. He designed the raised neck-gables at Keizersgracht 319 (1639) and Rokin 145 (1642/43) as well as the later Classicist neck-gables at Herengracht 364-370 (Cromhout Huizen, 1660/62) and Singel 460 (Nuerenberg, now Odeon Theatre, 1662).

Korte Prinsengracht 9 (1653),
Vingboons imitation

The classicist neck-gable with pilasters frequently occurs. Often these top gables were richly decorated. Vingboons' followers deviated from the master's examples and in the process created two further types of neck-gables:

  • small neck-gables with plainer ornamentation (miniature Vingboons)
  • richly decorated neck-gables with ornaments in the shape of human figures and animals but otherwise closely resembling Vingboons' style

Miniature Vingboons or small-size Vingboons imitation gables were used for slightly simpler houses. A common feature is the brick facade with pilasters and neck-gable and the plain ornamentation. Some examples: Bloemgracht 108 (1644); Oudezijds Achterburgwal 76 (1645); Looiersgracht 21 (1648); Brouwersgracht 218 (1650); Singel 412 (approx. 1650) and Korte Prinsengracht 9 (1653). Later 17th century examples: Keizersgracht 62 (approx. 1660); Keizersgracht 504-506 (1671); Herengracht 257 (1661); Herengracht 61-63 (1666); Prinsengracht 94 (approx. 1680); Leidsegracht 25 (1684); Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 264 (1688).

OZ Voorburgwal 19 (1656),
neck-gable with crolls in the shape of dolphins

A very popular feature of the neck-gable is the croll in the shape of a human figure or an animal. The oldest surviving example is Oudezijds Voorburgwal 19 (1656). An exceptionally splendid representative of this type is Oudezijds Voorburgwal 187 (1663). This type of decoration was widely used until well into the 18th century, be it that the rest of the facade was subject to the ever changing fashion.

18th Century

Keizersgracht 62-64,
17th and 18th century neck-gables side by side

As far as the decoration is concerned there is a marked difference between 17th and 18th century neck-gables. Gable tops in the shape of segmental frontons and festoons (garlands of flowers and fruit) typically belong to 17th century. The neck-gable with pilasters is another 17th century feature (approx. 1640 - approx. 1670). From approximately 1670 onwards facades crowned by neck-gables were supposed to be flat, a style that remained fashionable throughout the next century. In stead architects started to focus on the top gable which was provided with ever more elaborate sculptures. At the beginning of the 18th century Louis XIV decoration started to make headway. The symmetry of the Baroque ornaments proved to be a perfect match for the well-balanced shape of the neck-gable. Acanthus became a common ornament for crolls, though at first the shapes were coarse and heavy (e.g. 15 Noordermarkt dating back to 1701). More flamboyant shapes soon developed. The fronton which crowns the top gable was provided with elegant moulding (sometimes in the shape of a trefoil) and a crest. Sometimes the rich decoration overflowed the fronton and also covered the area surrounding the hoist beam.

Herengracht 427-429 Kloveniersburgwal 6-8

Crolls in the shape of pierced flowers are typical of the first quarter of the 18th century, e.g. Keizersgracht 702-704 (1700); Herengracht 524 (approx. 1700); Herengracht 427-429 (approx. 1715); Noordermarkt 18 (1718) and Kloveniersburgwal 6-8 (1722). In the second quarter of the century crolls were often subdivided into two parts by a small ledge, e.g. Keizersgracht 606-608 (1732); Prinsengracht 27 (approx. 1740).

OZ Voorburgwal 135 Keizersgracht 606-608

Some examples of Louis XIV neck-gables: Keizersgracht 702-704 (1700); Singel 290 (approx. 1700); Singel 326 (approx. 1700); Kalverstraat 162 (approx. 1700), Noordermarkt 15 (1701); Keizersgracht 178 (1713); Prinsengracht 469 (1713); Keizersgracht 615 (1715); Oudezijds Voorburgwal 232 (Paris, 1715); Herengracht 427-429 (approx. 1715); Keizersgracht 611-613 (1716); Prinsengracht 289 (approx. 1720); Korsjespoortsteeg 15 (approx. 1725); Oudezijds Voorburgwal 73 (1727); Singel 377-379 (1730); Keizersgracht 12 (approx. 1730); Keizersgracht 292-294 (approx. 1730); Keizersgracht 606-608 (1732); Keizersgracht 64 (1738); Singel 192 (1739); Keizersgracht 234 (approx. 1740); Keizersgracht 16 (1743); Oudezijds Voorburgwal 135 (date unknown).

Roomolenstraat 11 (approx. 1760),
Louis XV neck-gable

As opposed to Louis XIV or Baroque ornamentation, the later Louis XV, or Rococo, style proved a much less suitable companion for the neck-gable facade. The combination of asymmetrical Rococo decoration with the strictly symmetrical design of the neck-gable facade is rather an awkward one. As a result the bell-shaped gable took over from the neck-gable. Neck-gables in Louis XV style are few and far between: Herengracht 150 (approx. 1750); Binnen Brouwersstraat 11 (1753), Roomolenstraat 11 (approx. 1760); Singel 414 (approx. 1770); Keizersgracht 304 (approx. 1775). The three adjacent neck-gables at Kalverstraat 94-98 (1771) are unique in that they have crolls representative of a plainer type of Louis XV decoration which formed the transition to the Louis XVI style.

Neck-gables in Louis XVI style are even rarer. The only example is Prinsenstraat 12 (approx. 1775).


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