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What's on at the Wittenberg


Date: 19 Jan 2018


The fact that Wittenberg is housed in an amazing building is one that cannot be missed. The surroundings of your temporary headquarters are architecturally incredibly attractive as well. Discover the history of this city district through beautiful historic buildings and be amazed from time to time by the elegant way that modern design manages to conquer space.


The first stones

Walking, enjoying recreation, getting some fresh air in a green environment – according to the municipality, people were only supposed to engage in such activities in the area to the east of the river Amstel. Construction was officially forbidden in what is now the Plantage neighbourhood from 1682 onwards. In view of the tremendous population growth at the time, this restriction was lifted in 1885. Part of the plots were reserved for the St Jacob’s Asylum and the zoo, Artis. The other plots were bought by investors who would subsequently build houses there for wealthy citizens. The municipality set high quality standards for the building plans.


Opposite the Wertheimpark, a block with seventeen residential houses, designed by architect G.W. Breuker, arose. This residential block, with multiple houses behind a shared facade, was one of the first of its kind in this neighbourhood. The block runs from the Plantage Parklaan towards the Henri Polaklaan and the Plantage Middenlaan. The houses consist of a basement with three floors and a floor under the roof above it. With the exception of the middle building on the Plantage Parklaan 15, all buildings are well preserved. There are more original nineteenth-century buildings in the neighbourhood: the Weltevreden and Welgelegen houses on Plantage Middenlaan 47 and 49, both of which are still at their original, lower street level; the Artis Aquarium building on number 53, and the House with the Vases on the Plantage Lepellaan 6.


Jewish history

Jewish diamond workers who had become rich thanks to the supply of diamonds from South Africa traded their old Jewish Quarters surrounding the Waterlooplein for the stately lanes of the new Plantage neighbourhood. The Jewish history of the Plantage neighbourhood can be observed throughout it. The Portuguese synagogue on the Mr. Visserplein is a unique building because, after almost three-and-a-half centuries, it still fulfils its original function, and made it through the Second World War almost entirely unscathed. Other buildings that show the neighbourhood’s Jewish history are the neoclassical Plancius Building on the Plantage Kerklaan 61 and the former Portuguese Israelite Hospital on the Henri Polaklaan 12. Close by is De Burcht van Berlage, the Netherlands’ oldest trade union building. The architect Berlage, also known for the stock exchange on the Damrak, designed De Burcht commissioned by the General Diamond Workers’ Union of the Netherlands.


The Amsterdam School

Clear wave motions are visible in architecture. As a response to the dominant rationalism, a group of young Amsterdam architects started the Amsterdam School in 1910. This school was characterised by its expressive style, its extensive use of brick, and the application of decorations in facades, in brick or sculpted natural stone. There are buildings and bridges with these specific features throughout Amsterdam. There are also various examples of the Amsterdam School in the Wittenberg neighbourhood: the Central Office of the Public Health Service (GGD) on the Nieuwe Achtergracht 100, the Lau Mazirel Bridge that connects the Roetersstraat with the Plantage Kerklaan, the Zeeman Laboratory on the Plantage Muidergracht 4, and the Hugo de Vries Laboratory on the Plantage Middenlaan 2C-2G. Another remarkable building from the twentieth century is the modernist bridge master’s house by the Hortus Bridge. The Hortus House was designed by Dirk Sterenberg and, with its white-painted concrete, sleek steel windows, and blue colour areas, is reminiscent of the work of Gerrit Rietveld.


Modern times

Particularly the historic buildings surrounding Wittenberg are most impressive at first glance. However, at various locations, it is the integration of modern and old architecture that steals the show. The Roeterseiland, a former diamond factory, has housed the science programmes of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) for decades. While maintaining its original facade, it was entirely renovated in 2012 to house the CREA, the cultural student centre of the UvA. The brick building on the left side along the canal is special thanks to the preservation of its original facade and glass atrium and balustrades. It was nominated for the Amsterdam Architecture Prize. Enthusiasts of modern architecture are advised to make their way to the IJ, where construction is taking place along both banks. The Arcam, NEMO, the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, the new construction of the Central Station, A’DAM Toren, and the Eye Film Institute can be admired both from the inside and outside. Work is still underway on the already iconic Pontsteiger building. The building, which will house the most expensive apartment in the Netherlands, is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

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