Innovative design

The design and arrangement of the Canal Ring matched the prevailing ideals for an aesthetic, defensible and efficient city. A round city can easily be defended and yields the nicest plan. In a clever way this was combined by not making the three main canals exactly round, but by building them up from five straight pieces containing four bends.

Only the part of the Canal District to the extreme east was ultimately not completed. When the economy stagnated after 1672 and sales of the plots in the area to the east of the Amstel were disappointing, the land was left vacant.

A citizens' city

Constructing the Canal Ring was a costly, complicated and long-drawn-out project. That it didn’t simply stall with the development plans, as happened in other European cities, can be attributed to the local middle-class authorities. Whereas most European cities were governed by authoritarian monarchs, Amsterdam already had a citizen government. It worked closely with the entrepreneurial and thriving city dwellers. Not all that unusual, given that Amsterdam’s city authorities mainly comprised prosperous merchants, who knew all the tricks when it came to trade, organisation and funding.

New European concepts

Because the authorities were made up from the citizenry, considerable attention was also devoted to the city’s practical arrangement. The new construction was spacious. Roads and canals were paved and the public establishments, such as markets, meat markets and churches, were spread evenly across the new part of the city. Designers had also separated homes, businesses and traffic – a division which was new in Europe.