Amsterdam, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal

This is a view of one of the broadest streets in central Amsterdam. It appears to have been taken from the roof of a building - the view in the bottom left corner is down onto a neighboring roof. The buildings range quite widely in height, from three to six stories, yet they form a pleasing if not entirely coherent whole.

Notice that the only building that breaks the skyline created by the mass of ordinary buildings is a cathedral that soars above everything else. Even today, there is nothing in central Amsterdam taller than the highest churches, although some skyscrapers are starting to appear on the edges of town. (None of them is a worthy addition to the skyline, either.) The view from the church spires is impressive.

Notice also that many buildings have half basements, with the ground floor actually elevated quite a bit above the street. This is a common and not terribly satisfactory pattern in Amsterdam. The basements are often inhabited (at least today) and are cold, dark, and damp. Their access is usually treacherous. The main floors are cut off from the street by their elevation.

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Text ©2001-2002 J.Crawford