Amsterdam was very prosperous at the end of the nineteenth century. Trade flourished and more and more people decided to live in the city. The Government of Amsterdam therefore decided in 1896 to build a new stock exchange. The designer was architect and urban planner Hendrik Petrus Berlage. Berlage, however, was a fervent socialist and did not believe that the stock exchange would last. He solved this smartly and creatively. Inspired by the Italian Palazzo Pubblico, Berlage decided to design the new stock exchange building in such a way that in the future, after the expected victory of socialism, it could serve as a grand and impressive community house. A true people’s palace!
The Beurs van Berlage cannot be assigned to one style, and shows characteristics of both Neo-Romanesque architecture and Art Nouveau. Above all, it is regarded as a precursor to movements such as the Amsterdam School. In the eyes of Berlage, the enormous brick walls depict the democratic society: ‘insignificant as an individual, but a power as a mass‘. The clock tower with the ‘Beursbengel’ is the most striking element of the building. It is inspired by the 13th-century Torre del Popolo in the northern Italian city of Brescia. In 1999, the Beurs van Berlage was placed on the list of 1,000 most important buildings of the twentieth century by the Union Internationale des Architectes.