- Last wooden houses: Amsterdam is famous for its brickwork, but it wasn’t always this way. The original medieval buildings were made of wood, but following devastating fires in 1421 and 1452, most of the city burned down and houses were no longer allowed to be built with wooden sides. In 1669, timber construction was banned outright. Now there are just two wooden houses left: Begijnhof 34 and Zeedijk 1.
- Oldest house in Amsterdam: Begijnhof 34, known as Houten Huys (wooden house), is also the oldest house in Amsterdam built around 1425. It is situated in what was a religious community for single women, and features a gothic-style timber frame. Step through the doors into a quiet courtyard to escape Amsterdam Centre's fast hustle outside. Although, Begijnhof 34 is the oldest house, the oldest building is the Oude Kerk (Old Church), consecrated in 1306.
- Narrowest houses in Amsterdam: Amsterdam's houses are famously narrow because they used to be taxed on frontage, inspiring people to build long, narrow houses. One of the narrowest houses in the world is at Singel 7. The house is one metre wide, and fits snugly between bigger houses. But, appearances can be deceiving. What looks like the entrance is actually the back of the house. The smallest house is at Oude Hoogstraat 22, next to the East India House, standing just 2.02 metres wide and 6 metres deep.
- Widest house in Amsterdam: The Trippenhuis (Trip House) was built in 1666 for the wealthy Trip brothers and is 22 metres wide, making it the most spacious residence in Amsterdam. The brothers made their fortune in the arms trade, so look for mortar-shaped chimneys and cannons on the facade. Legend has it that the brothers built a very narrow house across the street after their coachman exclaimed: "Oh my, I would be happy if I had a house that was only as wide as the front door of my master's house.”
- Het Huis met de Hoofden (the House with the Heads): Dating back to 1622, the facade of this building boasts gargoyles, pillars, and the heads that give the house it's name. It's located at Keizersgracht 123, and is a great example of an authentically preserved building in Amsterdam.
- The 3D-printed house: In a quest for more sustainability and flexibility in architecture, the world’s first 3D-printed canal house is currently being constructed in Amsterdam-Noord. Exhibition, research area and building site in one, the house is open for the public to explore while it evolves.
As you marvel at the narrow houses, you might notice that many have a plaque with a picture located halfway up the gable. This dates back to the Middle Ages when many people couldn’t read, and used the plaques to identify the name or profession of the owner. Keep an eye out for one of over 650 plaques that have been preserved throughout Amsterdam, and take a guess at the professions.
If this article has whet your appetite for more architectural tidbits, then visit the ARCAM Centre for Architecture. Aptly housed in a striking building, the ARCAM is an excellent stop for checking out an architecture exhibition or gathering more information on interesting buildings throughout Amsterdam.