of Amsterdam's charm comes from the architecture dating from the city's
"Golden Age". Amsterdam goes back more than 700 years and a good
portion of the central city is 200 to 550 years old. These beautiful
old buildings have been wonderfully restored and preserved. Many older buildings
awaiting restoration have serious structural problems! It's
truly remarkable when you realize most of them are built on stilts stuck
into the mud. So many structures lean at odd angles that it's rare
to see a whole block in alignment. Many have had to have their supports
replaced over the centuries to keep the buildings upright.
Oude Kerk in
the Red Light district
beautiful as these buildings appear on the outside, unless they've been
completely remodeled inside they are likely to suffer from the typical
drawbacks of Dutch architecture of the period. Most buildings are
deep and narrow. This was a result of city taxes that were measured
by frontage. Of course the thrifty Dutch decided to keep their buildings
narrow and thus avoid paying too much tax.
drawbacks to old Dutch buildings are steep, narrow winding staircases with
low ceilings to bump your head into. These staircases make it impossible
to bring any large objects into one's house, thus most of these buildings
have a hook extending from the top of the building allowing the residents
to hoist their larger furnishings up through the windows. Nowadays
you can rent an electric ramp that works like an escalator whisking belongings
as high as six stories.
the worse feature of Dutch design is the bathroom, or W.C.. It's
usually separate from the bath/shower area, often in a very small room,
just big enough for you and the toilet. Typically
they're claustrophobic, with poor ventilation. Add to this the bizarre
toilet design with a platform to hold your smelly waste up in the air (I
think it's some kind of altar) so that it can fill the room with the scent
of, well you know... The Dutch will often light a match, supposedly
to remove the smell, but I keep expecting an explosion. I can't say
I've enjoyed much of my time spent on the crapper in Holland.
Another drawback to living in Amsterdam is the fact that the city is about 15 feet
below sea level. This creates a sink for moist air from the North
Sea to blanket the city most days. This incredibly humid air mass
is responsible for high mold counts and little sunshine. In fact
the narrow streets, multistory buildings and high density of Amsterdam
allow only brief periods of sun to grace the streets. These moments
are relished by the residents. The saving grace is that good breezes
keep the air moving. The numerous canals channel the wind and water
(feng shui) making up for the lack of open space in the city.
Note:From the Golden Age to the Amsterdam School to Bauhaus inspired design, to ugly boxes, Dutch architecture can be inspiring and functional or neither.
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