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Beurs van Berlage

Beurs van Berlage (12)

The stock exchange conjures up images of hustle and bustle, shouting, numbers on large screens, and the frantic comings and goings of brokers in coloured jackets trading in apparent desperation. Initially however, the stock exchange was not so exhausting and it was even less so in Holland, where everything seems to go slower.

It was in the Middle Ages when trade started to develop significantly in this country. Merchants and traders met by the port to do business. This was always a lively zone to and from which goods of all kinds arrived and departed. It therefore seemed the ideal place for commercial exchanges and agreements, etc. 

In good weather, these meetings were held in the open air but when it rained or there was a storm, which is quite common in the city, the traders ran to shelter either indoors or in doorways. The need to find a suitable covered site for negotiations grew increasingly pressing. 

It was not until the sixteenth century that Amsterdam decided to follow the model of other European cities like London and Antwerp, which had already constructed buildings especially designed for these exchanges. The stock exchange as such thus appeared, or at least became an institution in its own right, with its own building, and Amsterdam wanted one too. The prestigious architect Hendrick de Keyser therefore travelled to London to visit the stock exchange building and come up with a project for the Dutch capital. 

The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, however, did not arise in a matter of a few days. Its first building dated from 1608 and was constructed in Rokin. The main feature was a beautiful courtyard with a Flemish mannerist colonnade. Business could only be done in this building at established times. For precisely this reason, the building had a great clock, which dominated the courtyard and marked the opening and closing times and periods when business was allowed. 

With time, this original building was demolished and replaced in 1845 by a Renaissance-style design by Jan David Zocher. According to accounts from the time, this building had “a small Ionic portico that led to a Doric temple” and was not at all suited to the use it was put. This building’s function and its use in history were fleeting, which is reflected in the fact that Zocher is known solely as a landscaper and not for the design of this building. 

In view of the situation, the architect Hendrick Petrus Berlage proposed a new project on a new site. 

Berlage, particularly after his Amsterdam Stock Exchange project, had a great impact on Dutch architecture, above all because of his highly revolutionary style that influenced the city’s architecture in the early twentieth century. 

This key work is remarkable for the simplicity of its materials, particularly the red brick. However, the ceilings of the three rooms feature iron vaults, which makes them truly original. The framework of the roof, a steel-structure with stained glass windows, and the braces are visible.

Although the design was innovative, the profile of the facade is inspired by Italian civil architecture of the Middle Ages. This can be observed immediately in the square tower that flanks the building. This tower, as in the original building, is crowned with a large clock.

Building work was completed in 1903 and mural painters, glaziers and local sculptors were involved in the decoration. 

The sound of money cannot be heard any more as Berlage’s stock exchange no longer has its former use. The trading of goods or the establishment of impossible business deals have been replaced by a spiritually higher function. The building is now used for conferences, exhibitions, meetings and even concerts by the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra.

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