The second I stepped off the train and onto the platform at Amsterdam Central, there was one thing I could say for certain: the Dutch take design and architecture seriously.
As I noticed the seamless blend of centuries-old architecture and cutting-edge design, I quickly realized that the Dutch had been doing this for quite some time. This theory was quickly affirmed as my husband and I entered our cab and began to drive away. I looked back to take in the beautiful Neo-Renaissance architecture of the station, and when I looked forward I saw well over 2000 parking spaces… for bicycles alone!
While Amsterdam Central managed to offer a glimpse of the city’s fluid duality, I found the most obvious example of this the day my husband and I rode the metro to Stedelijk Museum. As we de-boarded and began walking towards the museum, we encountered a grassy hill angled diagonally on the edge of a large park. It turned out that this hill was angled that way due to the shape of the roof of the grocery store built beneath it. Now this just blew me away! The concept that a huge city treasured its parks and museums so much that it took the time to build a grocery store under a park as opposed to over it is amazing enough. Add to that the fact that Amsterdam continually proves that it’s still dedicated to innovating modern comfort, and you begin to get the feeling that you’re being schooled.
As we entered the Stedelijk, I was told by the man at the ticket counter that I had come at a good time, as the city had only recently reopened the building. I subsequently learned this was due to the fact that the museum itself was now two buildings in one – the beautiful old building was designed by A.W.Weissman and the functional structure called the bathtub (because it looks like a giant bathtub) was designed by Mels Crouwel.
Inside the museum, as you flow from room to room, you hardly notice the transition. From the ultramodern escalator leading down to the lower level to the lavishly ornate brick stairway leading to the upper level, my jaw never left the floor, no matter where I was.
In hindsight, it probably shouldn’t have been so amazing to see layer upon layer of beautiful design, planning, execution and utilization.
Amsterdam is a city that was built by people who took building cities very seriously, after all. Each time the city would expand throughout the centuries, it would do so in the most spectacular of ways – and it still does, as evidenced by my view of the Hotel IJDock from the centuries-old harbor.
It gives this overwhelming sense that you’re standing in a city, a neighborhood, a building that was built thoughtfully that makes Amsterdam, to me at least, the perfect mix of old and new, practical and punk rock, Weissman and Bathtub.