It is worth taking a closer look into this former commodity exchange, now cultural centre, designed by the architect H.P. Berlage. He is considered to be the father of modern architecture in the Netherlands mainly because of his design for this Exchange. With this building, Berlage succeeded in freeing himself of the historicizing styles and gave architecture a rational basis, in which he subordinated decoration to architectural elements.
The Amsterdam School
The Amsterdam School and the Nieuwe Bouwen (the Dutch Modern Movement) were strongly influenced by the ideas Berlage expressed in the Exchange. Because of the collaboration with poets, sculptors and painters, including J. Toorop, R.N. Roland Holst and J. Mendes da Costa, the Exchange is a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’.
The construction of a new exchange had been delayed for more than fifteen years when, in 1896, Berlage was engaged to give advice. Through the agency of M.W.F. Treub, alderman for public works, this soon led to a design by Berlage and an official building commission. This took place in great secrecy; the public did not see the final design until it was ready to be realized.
Berlage’s first design was still full of Dutch Renaissance decorations, but in later versions, he gradually removed ‘superfluous’ embellishments. What remained were austere, brick elevations, each of which has a different character, restrained ornamentation and a visible, iron roof. The building’s users did not appreciate its avant-garde character. The many bare, unplastered brick walls were so unpopular that wall hangings were placed in front of them.
Berlage Exchange Today
Over 100 years ago Berlage was interviewed by a journalist after the Exchange was built. Berlage – being a socialist at heart – told him: “I realize this is the most capitalist building of Amsterdam, but as soon as the economy fails us, this exchange will be a palace for the people. A place where meeting, sharing knowledge and collaborating come together.” Berlage’s words proved to be visionary, because today this is exactly what the exchange has become.
The three halls in the exchange were given a cultural function following the restoration in 1990, in line with Berlage’s vision. A creative hub, a meeting space, an inspirational environment with great exhibitions and a place of knowledge exchange.
And it so happens to be the place where your Map Your City Team resides ; )
Source: ARCAM | Meet Berlage | Beurs van Berlage