Accessible design

After fires razed the city in the 1400s, a city ordinance was passed that new buildings in Amsterdam should have brick walls and ceramic roof tiles. First, architects borrowed from the Renaissance style, evident in the stepped gable facades of Amsterdam's many row houses. As years - and styles -passed, an original style emerged: Amsterdam School.

Amsterdam School structures are characterised by the use of brick for structure and design, a rounded appearance, decorative masonry, wrought iron accents, spires and 'ladder' windows. The style has roots in Expressionist architecture, borrowing elements from the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) and Art Deco design aesthetic.

The aim was to create a total architectural experience, so designers paid great attention to both the interior and the exterior of each building. Due to the socialist ideals of its founders, the Amsterdam School style was often applied to housing estates for the working class, government institutions and schools. Many examples of this style can be found in Amsterdam’s Rivierenbuurt neighbourhood.

Amsterdam’s own architectural style

The Amsterdam School (Amsterdamse School) was born between 1910 and 1930 in the Amsterdam office of renowned architect Eduard Cuypers. Though Cuypers himself was not the originator of the style, he fostered an environment that encouraged creativity and innovation. So it was that three of his employees, Michel de Klerk, Johan van der Mey and Piet Kramer became the leaders of the Amsterdam School movement.

In 1911, van der Mey was appointed the city’s first “aesthetic advisor”. He was commissioned to design the Scheepvaarthuis, a building that would serve as the head offices for the city’s six largest shipping companies. Van der Mey recruited de Klerk and Kramer to collaborate, and together they created one of the most stunning examples of Amsterdam School design.

Museum Het Schip

The Spaarndammerplantsoen in Amsterdam features three monumental housing blocks designed by Michel de Klerk, most notably Het Schip (the ship). Designed in 1919, Het Schip consists of 102 flats for working-class families, a small meeting hall and a post office, which now houses a museum dedicated to the Amsterdam School movement. Het Schip offers tours past the Amsterdam School's key buildings and on Sundays a special guided tour of the Scheepvaarthuis. Below are a few notable locations for self-guided touring, or stop by Het Schip for more ideas.