The Beurs van Berlage, the former Koopmansbeurs, has been an unmissable institution in the center of Amsterdam for more than a century. This national monument, built in 1903 by architect Hendrik Pieter Berlage, is considered to be the first example of modern architecture in the Netherlands.
The Beurs was a fantastic laboratory for Berlage, a project in which he could not only express all his ideas about a new architectural style, but also those about a fairer society. From the same collectivist point of view, he wanted the new Koopmansbeurs to become a work in which different art disciplines would form an equal unit. This “Gesamtkunstwerk" was supposed to stimulate people’s spiritual development and would be a wonderful community work, according to Berlage.
His friend and kindred spirit Albert Verwey (1865-1937) was commissioned by him to devise which wall decorations, sculptures and reliefs should be placed in the stock exchange. This self-taught literature, historian and philosopher helped Berlage to combine the sculptures and poetic foundations of the Beurs with the architectural design, creating an organic whole.
In eighteen significant quatrains, poet / writer Albert Verwey explained his deeper thoughts about the stock exchange building, commissioned by Berlage. The poems in turn served as a guideline for the decorations on and in the building. The makers of the sculptures, the reliefs, the friezes and the glassware, which were attracted by the architect, each set to work with a quatrain. Together, the quatrains are a beautiful poem.
Where now is the official entrance, you used to enter the Schippersbeurs and the Coffee House. The relief illustrates that international trade – symbolized in boats, goods and pack animals from all over the world, such as horses, bulls and camels – promotes fraternization between the world peoples, see the Chinese, the Arab and the Westerner. From this, as quatrain relates, a united Europe, even a united world, would eventually emerge: equal and just. The chariot and ship seen on the keystones symbolize the transport that brings all those cultures and peoples together.
“Nature will soon become one: The people are as called
From that union that controls all her sphere.
By land, by sea, train strives, fleet strives most
To the alternating goal to which they call each other. “
“The keystone that holds the arches together
Wear it as a sign above our heads
Bow net and plow, ship fire loom: promised
Those few who build a whole world?"
The keystones of the Beurs van Berlage are also the work of Lambertus Zijl, each with its own meaning. For example, the keystone on the south facade of the Stock Exchange reminds the people who have their offices there today of the importance of trust and cooperation. The images of the keys, which are located above
the access arches reveal something about the space behind it.
“One corner to the city, two to the IJ
A tower the one where Knight Gijsbrecht stands:
A Dam, his dam in d ‘Amstel hit he go;
Coen did the Maritime District, Grotius does maritime law
hope, " state the sentences from Albert Verwey’s poem about the statues on the three corners of the Beurs van Berlagee.
The statues are by Lambertus Zijl. He was part of Berlage’s regular team.
According to Berlage’s style, a facade had to be flat, but that did not mean that decorations were taboo. As long as they fell into the outer wall, it was best to add decorations to the facade. The statue of Gijsbrecht van Amstel has therefore been carved in the corner of the south and west facades. Van Amstel determined where the Dam in the Amstel would be laid in 1240 and thus signed for the creation of Amsterdam.
Lawyer and writer Hugo de Groot promoted free access to the sea and free trade in the seventeenth century and suggested the idea of a League of Nations. He published these progressive thoughts at the time in his book Mare Liberum, which he carries under his arm in the image.
From the north, the Stock Exchange opens to the harbor, to the station, to the world. In this corner the image of the controversial Jan Pieterszoon Coen.