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Although it may seem strange for a large shopping centre to feature among the tourist attractions of the beautiful Dutch capital, the Magna Plaza building is, in fact, well worth a visit. Regardless of whether you come away carrying dozens of bags and a damaged credit card account, you will no doubt leave with a picture of this spectacular building, right in the heart of Amsterdam.
All visitors stop to admire the facade of this colossal building, which is over a hundred years old and was erected between 1895 and 1899. Its function, at the start, was quite different from that of this well-known Dutch shopping centre, as it was the Post Office Headquarters.
Like other buildings in the city, earlier styles were recovered which was again very much a feature of the nineteenth century. On the facade of the Magna Plaza you can discern distinguished Neo-renaissance traits, romantic elements characteristic of the period and, most particularly, neo-Gothic features that in some aspects are reminiscent of the Houses of Parliament in London.
The architect who designed it, Cornelis Hendrik Peters, did not use decorative elements sparingly, something that was highly criticised by the working class who occupied the neighbouring district of Jordaan when the building was constructed. Its towers, which featured pear-shaped crowns, initially earned it the derogatory nickname of “Perenburg” (pear castle). However, not everyone seems to have been of the same opinion as this building has been considered one of the city’s ten most beautiful since 1992, and everyone, of course, is entitled to their opinion.
The Central Post Office Headquarters was contained in this magnificent envelope until the end of the nineteen-eighties. In its place, the local authorities decided to develop a luxurious shopping centre, in keeping with the structure that was to accommodate it. Until that time, small businesses, a few chains and hypermarkets had appeared in the city’s streets, yet Amsterdam did not have a proper shopping centre, something that was now considered to be highly necessary.
In the early nineteen-nineties, the reorganisation and renewal of the building were put out to tender and the Dutch architects Ruijssenaars and Loreakker were contracted to strengthen its foundations and adapt the space to its new use as a shopping centre. It was not an easy task as they had to keep the 5,500 square metres of the building faithful to the original aesthetics as the place was very highly valued by everyone. In 1992, the dream had been turned into reality and the Magna Plaza Shopping Centre was opened.
The four floors of this nineteenth-century building are currently home to hundreds of fashion, decoration, toy and jewellery shops, and the centre is full of cafés and restaurants.
A great glass dome allows the light to enter and radiantly highlight the bright shop windows.
Whether or not you do any shopping, a visit to the Old Post Office building is highly recommendable because of its artistic and architectural interest. Perhaps its strategic site makes it one of the most visited points in the city.
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