Amsterdam has been the world's leading city between 1580 and 1680. Often 17th century is described as a "golden age" of the Netherlands. It was a time when Amsterdam was the financial capital of the world. All these merchants, traders, bankers, ship owners built their houses in the city. Amsterdam grew five times bigger within a century and the canal houses from that time form the today's city landscape. Most of them are single, narrow town houses. Variety of gables on their facades (Dutch: gevels) impress the visitor. Today they indicate when the house was built, who was its owner, how much money did he have.
The golden age facades were built from stone, and not from wood as before. Most of them lean forward with their top gable. Depending on the gable's shape, we speak today about the neck-gable, point-gable, bell-shaped gable, step-gable, clock-gable, gable with a shell motive or a dolphin motive, cornice, raised cornice. There were different fashions in Amsterdam architecture and different tastes of the houses owners. Often, a family coat of arms, an owner initials or a symbolic sculpture, was placed between the ornaments.
Before the beginning of the 19th century when Napoleon introduced the streets numbers, most of the houses had on their façade a gable stone (Dutch: gevelsteen) indicating the house by name, a graphic sign or by profession of its owner. Often a gable stone bears a date when the house was built. Amazingly many of these stones were placed during the past twenty years, when the inner city of Amsterdam became again fashionable.
Many old town houses were recently renovated into new, expensive residences, sometimes with the car parking under the house and the computer operated lift placing the cars on shelves, one above another. The canal houses of Amsterdam shine again today with fresh paint of their facades.
Photographing old houses facades
For a photographer, the variety of old facades of the canal houses in Amsterdam represents an opportunity to photograph old architecture in the special natural light of the Netherlands. The Dutch name it themselves Hollands Licht – Dutch Light. It is bright, changes rapidly and often brings the most unusual combinations of sun, clouds and rain.
Free photo gallery of the fronts of old houses in Amsterdam, The Netherlands (also known as Holland). Photos of old, new, colorful fronts of buildings...
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