Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is one of the most charming places in Europe. Amsterdam derives its name from Amstelredamme, suggesting the city’s cradle around a dam in the river Amstel. This city’s origins lay in the 12th century. Amsterdam originated as a small fishing village and transformed into one of the most significant ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age (17th century), which was a result of its innovative developments in trade. It is a place where modern architecture developed organically between the facades of historical buildings. 

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Amsterdam, Netherlands_©Massimo Catarinella

Heritage of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is known for its rich history and its associated architecture. One example is the Oude Kerk which is the oldest living building in the city. It was founded in 1213 and consecrated in the year 1306 by the bishop of Utrecht, with Saint Nicolas as its patron saint. This building is an example of the typical gothic style architecture with wooden ribbed vaults and stained glass windows. The church has undergone a number of renovations by fifteen generations of the citizens of Amsterdam. 

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Oude Kerk_©en.wikipedia.orgwikiOude_Kerk,_Amsterdam#mediaFileAmsterdam_oude_kerk2.jpg

When we look at the city from an architectural lens, we understand that various styles of architecture have flourished across the city. Styles including Gothic, Expressionist, Dutch Renaissance, Baroque, Brutalist have all existed here in this city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Another example of historic architecture in Amsterdam, Netherlands, is the Rijksmuseum. It was designed by Pierre Cuypers in 1885, and it houses the artworks by Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, etc.

Canal ring houses

The old center was formed by rings of canals with predominantly houses of rich merchants, craftsmen, financiers, lawyers, doctors, artists, and politicians of the 17th century. Due to the lack of space, these residences were predominantly narrow, not more than 9 meters. Some of the characteristics include big narrow windows, decorative gable tops, narrow stairs in the interiors, and a pulley to transport large objects to upper levels. These structures also served as businesses. Merchant’s residences had storage in attics and cellars, and the merchant’s office was usually on the ground floor. Sometimes, a lift was also installed in the middle of the residence for transportation of goods between floors. 

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Narrow houses_©www.successtours.comtourskeukenhof-amsterdam


At the end of the 18th century, Classicism produced many monumental buildings in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The most interesting of the buildings is Felix Meritis by Jacob Otten. The building was meant to illustrate the Enlightenment ideals the society stood for. The classical temple facade with its massive Corinthian pilasters and pediment depicts the society’s five departments with five sculptures representing Visual arts and architecture, literature, trade, natural sciences, and music. The interior of the structure houses original 18th-century features like the Central staircase, the Oval Concert hall, and the domed roof. 

Historicism and Art Deco

The growth of Amsterdam into a modern city at the end of the 19th century resulted in the creation of several landmark buildings such as the Central station, Central Post office, Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, Stadsschouwburg, Concertgebouw, and St. Nicolaaskerk. The principal architect of this was P.J.H.Cuypers. Art Deco, which was prevalent at the beginning of the 19th century in Europe, left many interesting buildings in the city of Amsterdam. American Hotel is the best example with great interiors of the cafe and lunchroom. 

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Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam_©Marco Almbauer

Hendrik Petrus Berlage

At the beginning of the 20th century, a significant milestone was a huge plan for the expansion of Amsterdam into the dimension of the European metropolis, called Plan Zuid (Plan South – 1915). This was by an architect named H.P.Berlage, who is often regarded as the Father of Modern Dutch architecture. The Stock exchange building, located just near the Dam square, also by the architect H.P.Berlage, precedes the Amsterdam School style. It is regarded as influential to the whole Dutch architecture of the first half of the 20th century. 

The Amsterdam School style

At the dawn of the 20th century, the new housing law in the Netherlands started the development of low-cost housing for the working class. The majority of these quarters were constructed in a new characteristic style called the Amsterdam School. Born in a Jewish family, Michel de Klerk was one of the founding architects of the Amsterdam School movement (Expressionist Architecture). Het Schip (The Ship) is one of his finest completed buildings. 

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Het Schip_©Janericloebe

Functionalism (1920-1970) and later

Like in several other countries in Europe, Dutch Architecture after 1920 was influenced by the ideas of Le Corbusier, the French architect. Some of the characteristics of this movement included the use of concrete, prefabrication, and standardization. It also strongly emphasized the function of the building. The most significant architects included Johannes Duiker, Gerrit Rietveld, Jacobus Oud, Cornelis van Eesteren, Michiel Brinkman and Leendert van der Vlugt. The best examples of Functionalism, still influenced by the Amsterdam School, were the housing district Betondorp and Van Gogh Museum by Gerrit Rietveld.

Aldo van Eyck and Herman Hertzberger were some of the most interesting architects during the period 1960 to 1990 in Amsterdam.

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Van Gogh Museum_©justfunfacts.cominteresting-facts-about-the-van-gogh-museum

Amsterdam after 1990

Modern architecture in the Netherlands after the year 1990 seems interesting and attractive. Silodam, the New Islands (Borneo, Java, Sporenburg, KNSM), IJburg are some of the attractive realisations. The Rotterdam-based star architect Rem Koolhaas, Wiel Arets, Ton Alberts, and Ben van Berkel are some of the Dutch architects who have their work here in this city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Foreign architects who have worked here include Renzo Piano, Sven-Ingvar Andersson, Antonio Cruz, and Antonio Ortiz. 


  1. (n.d.). Amsterdam architecture | [online] Available at:
  2. ARCHIVIBE architecture and design news. (2018). > Modern architecture in Amsterdam. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2022].

‌3. RTF | Rethinking The Future. (2021). Architecture of Cities: Amsterdam- Architectural Aesthetics Hub. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2022].

‌4. Wikipedia. (2022). Architecture of the Netherlands. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2022].

‌5. Wikipedia. (2019). Oude Kerk. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2022].

‌6. Wikipedia. (2021). Felix Meritis. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2022].

‌7. Wikipedia. (2022). Michel de Klerk. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2022].


Meera Venkatesh, an architectural writer, finds it intriguing to recreate the same experience of space through words. Her love for architectural history has led her to pursue a Master's in History. Someone utters "Indian Heritage"; you may find Meera there! Now, what's her new interest? Writing for RTF!