Legendary Places

Welcome to Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam, an historical site. In quite a unique manner, the history of Amsterdam is reflected in the past and present of this building.
There were originally two convents here, St. Cecily's Convent at the northern part of the property and St. Katherine's Convent to the south. The Grand was built in three sections, as is still evident from the two courtyards and central element, and in its design we can detect the basic structure of the two convents. The tiny tower perched so pertly on the north side of the rooftop is reminiscent of St. Cecily's Convent founded here in 1411.
Amsterdam was a city filled with monasteries and convents. On old maps of the city, you can pick them out by their courtyards and walled gardens, always marked by a chapel. Even in the twentieth century, their remains are still in evidence in the floor plan of The Grand, in the patterns of several other parts of the city, and in any number of street names in this vicinity.


A brief look at the Vicinity

The Grand is flanked to the south by Agnietenstraat, and a bit further down is Agnietenkapel, two reminders of the Convent of St. Agnes that was founded here in 1397. In 1632, the St. Agnes Chapel became the seat of the Athenaeum Illustre, the forerunner of the University of Amsterdam, and now houses the University Museum.

Further to the south, if we cross Grimburgwal, we come to the former Binnengasthuis grounds. In this triangle between the Amstel river and Kloveniersburgwal, since 1400 there have been two convents of the Old and New Nuns. Convents often served an additional function as guesthouse in the double meaning of inn and hospital. After the Reformation in 1578, the entire convent was transformed into a hospital, Binnengasthuis, which left the city centre in 1981 and became part of the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam Southeast.
If we walk along Grimburgwal to Rokin, we pass 'Gebed zonder Eind' (Prayer without end), reminding us of the convents that once lined this narrow street. The preponderance of convents was a result of the high percentage of women vs men, at the end of the Middle Ages.
If we walk from The Grand along the canal in the other direction, we soon arrive at Damstraat and Oude Doelen Straat (alluding to the targets used by marksmen). If we turn right, we are once again in the vicinity of a convent. Between Oudezijds Achterburgwal and Kloveniersburgwal, the Bethany Convent was founded in 1425 for women who wanted to atone for their lives of debauchery. A small part of this convent has been preserved and renovated and now houses music students and has a concert hall.



Legendary People

The Reformation and the introduction of Protestantism as the official religion in 1578 was a turning point in the history of Amsterdam. Catholic churches were now the realm of Protestant vicars, and convents were turned over to the city. St. Cecily's Convent was transformed into a hotel for "Princen en Groote Heeren" (Princes and Gentlemen of Standing), the elegant guests of the city authorities. It was renamed "Princenhof" (Court of Princes), which Prinsenhofssteeg (Court of Princes Alley) on the north side of the building still alludes to.
Renowned guests at Princenhof included the Princes of Orange William the Silent (in 1581) and his sons and successors Prince Maurits and Prince Frederik Hendrik. French queen Maria de Medici stayed here in 1632. This unfortunate queen was engaged in a dispute with her son Louis XIII; a Dutch delegation made an attempt to reconcile the mother and son, but to no avail.

Part of St. Katherine's Convent was transferred to the Admiralty of Amsterdam, a board that managed the marine administration and the taxes to fund the safeguarding of the coast. As of 1597, the Admiralty of Amsterdam was one of the five Admiralty boards in the country.
When the city built a new hostel in 1647, the Oudezijds Herenlogement (Old Side Hostel for Gentlemen), Princenhof was vacated. The Admiralty wanted to rent it, but before arrangements were completed, Princenhof was to serve as City Hall for several years. The Old City Hall at Dam Square burned down in 1652, and no new premises were available yet. The construction of the new City Hall designed by Jacob van Campen, the present-day Royal Palace on Dam Square, was soon launched and it was completed by 1655. In the interim, from 1652 to 1655, the seat of the city government was at Princenhof.
Then the Admiralty took over the entire complex. It had a new main building constructed at the exact dividing line between St. Cecily's Convent and St. Katherine's Convent. The Admiralty Building was completed in 1662. Its magnificent façade, designed by master-mason Willem van de Gaffel, faces the north courtyard. Today, this is where the entrance to The Grand is situated.
The sculpture work in the façade triangle – after a design by Daniel Stalpaert – symbolizes the power of the Admiralty: The garden of Holland is guarded by a lion with two anchors in its claws (upon which the hotel logo has been based). The lion is flanked by statues of Justice, the god Mars and the sea god Neptune. The weather vanes on the roof depict the ship of the flag officers of the Admiralty and once again bear the coat of arms, the crossed anchors.
The façade is a wonderful example of Dutch classicism, with garlands between the windows and Ionic pilasters. The pilasters, continuous façade ornaments in the form of Greek columns, do not mark each storey separately, as was the case at the City Hall on Dam Square, which is ten years older. Instead, they continue across the entire height of the façade. This façade layout was used for the first time by Italian architect Andrea Palladio in the sixteenth century.
In 1795 Holland was occupied by the French. In 1806, the French Emperor Napoleon appointed his brother Louis King of Holland. In 1808, Louis demanded the City Hall of Amsterdam as his Royal Palace. Once again, the city authorities had to move from the Dam to Princenhof. After independence was regained and the House of Orange returned, Amsterdam was recognized as the capital of The Netherlands and the City Hall on Dam Square remained in use as the Royal Palace. For the next 180 years, Princenhof was to serve as the Amsterdam City Hall.
In the course of the centuries, the two original convents underwent quite a few architectural changes and additions. Nothing has remained of the chapel of St. Cecily's Convent. The little tower on the roof dates back to the seventeenth century, and the chapel itself was completely renovated in 1758. The Admiralty living quarters dating back from 1746, where the Grand's luxurious hotel apartments are now located, can still be recognized from outside as three separate premises on Oudezijds Achterburgwal. Large-scale expansion efforts in 1905 created the wing on Agnietenstraat designed by architect J.B. Springer.


New architecture

The most extensive City Hall expansion was the New Wing, which was opened in 1926. It is the building with the high, slightly arched façade on Oudezijds Voorburgwal between the main entrance of the hotel and Agnietenstraat. The New Wing was designed by architect N. Lansdorp, who worked with city architect A.R. Hulshoff. Ever since 1919, Nicolaas Lansdorp (1885-1968) was employed at the Public Works department. He built a large number of schools, which there was a clear need for after the urban expansion of the twenties. Vossius Gymnasium (a secondary school where the curriculum includes Ancient Greek and Latin) in Amsterdam South, which opened in 1933, was his last project in the city. In 1932 he was appointed professor in Delft, where he lectured on 'designing large buildings'.
City Hall's New Wing is viewed as one of the finest examples of Amsterdam School architecture. It is characterized by a romantic composition of the components, an aesthetic treatment of the façade with decorative masonry, special attention for the windows and frames, a preference for parabolically curved lines and a very special approach to the corners. To the architects of the Amsterdam school, the corner is not merely where two walls meet; it is a separate element in itself. It is resolved in serrations or curves or by stacking staggered blocks. The towerlike corner structure of The Grand, which brings to mind the silhouette of a ship, accentuates a stairwell in the interior and constitutes the start of the gradual link to the Springer façade on Agnietenstraat. The Amsterdam School architect exuded confidence without any desire to distinguish himself from his predecessors in a way that would tend to be offensive.
Lastly, there is the ample application of façade sculpture work, surely promoted by the fact that Hildo Krop was appointed as regular sculptor at the Public Works Department in 1916.
For years, Hildo Krop (1884-1970) had a virtual monopoly on the sculptor work adorning the streets of Amsterdam. As a child of his times, whether he was making slim angels, hair waving in the wind and hands beseeching, or a rugged worker with sturdy tools in their hands, he worked in a style that varied from Jugendstil idealism to socialist realism. No matter how different the depictions, they were always unmistakably Krop.
In 1938, Hildo Krop was once showing his French/Russian colleague Zadkine around town past all his works. "Mon dieu, vous devez être millionaire" (My god, you must be a millionaire), Zadkine remarked, obviously impressed by the number of pieces Krop had produced for the city. And indeed, if each of them had been separately commissioned he would have been a rich man. The point however was that he worked for a fixed salary. This way he could rapidly and efficiently meet with all the requests. He was satisfied with the situation because he never had any problems with the Art Committee and the Public Works Department was satisfied with the clear relationship.

In Hildo Krop's façade sculpture works, we find all kinds of symbols for administrative virtues as simplicity and courage, and we find the hard-working male and female figures symbolizing diligent labour. The sculpted heads of the granite columns represent a wider symbolism such as the Mystery of the Beginning, the Fate of Man and Infinity.
The idealistic protectiveness of the statues is in keeping with the Amsterdam School ideal: beauty in architecture to morally elevate mankind.

 

Legendary Events

As the New Wing was being constructed, the Admiralty building was restored on the outside and totally renovated on the inside. The walls were torn down of the old council chamber on the first storey; an uncomfortable room where council members would shiver from the cold all winter. In its place, a new Council Chamber was built based on a design by W. Penaat. It was here in this council chamber that mayor Gijs van Hall performed the wedding ceremony for Princess Beatrix and Claus von Amsberg on 12 March, 1966.

Willem Penaat (1875-1957) was a furniture designer who later gained acclaim as an organizer. He chaired the Association for Craftsmanship and Applied Art, which was founded in 1904.
The trend in applied art that was inspired by the English Arts and Crafts movement of Walter Ruskin, William Morris and Walter Crane found its common denominator in this Association. The Arts and Crafts movement strived for a new applied art that would be personal and at the same time serve society. The Association promoted the artistic and social interests of its members by way of exhibitions, contact with factories and the stimulation of new commissions. Within the Association, there was a wide variety of fashions and styles. In Morris' footsteps, the artists wanted to escape from the reviled imitation of neo-styles. They sought their inspiration in nature and in Egyptian, Persian, Indonesian and Japanese motifs, in medieval mysticism and in the reflections, emotions and images of theosophy. Any number of techniques were used, such as woodworking, tapestry weaving, designing damask, making batik fabrics and ceramics, designing and staining glass, painting murals and designing bank notes and postage stamps.
Penaat saw the Council Chamber as one joint work of art, all its parts based upon one and the same idea and directed by one person to form a whole. From the tapestry via the mural carpentry to the ceiling, with the parapets and chandeliers, to the furniture and the raised platform with the table for the mayor and the aldermen, each component, down to the very last doorknob, bore witness to one dominant spirit of the times.
The furniture, still on display here and there at the hotel, was made by Penaat himself, but the further implementation of his design was left to J. Mendes da Costa, Hildo Krop, John Raedecker and A. Fortuin for the sculpture works and decorative wood carvings, Frits Lensvelt for the lamps and G. Lantman for the door knobs. The paintings behind the table of the Mayor and Aldermen are by J. Thorn Prikker, but due to his untimely death they were never completed.
If we examine the works of art one by one, we detect a wide range of style elements. There is symbolism in the work by Hildo Krop on the right side of the Chamber, expressionism in the work by Mendes da Costa on the left and a late reflection of idealistic symbolism in the work by Thorn Prikker. In Penaat's Council Chamber the mixture of these styles blends together to form the Amsterdam version of European Art Deco. For the time being, this was to be the last large chamber a variety of artists ever transformed in this manner into a stylistic unity appreciated by one and all.
So much symbolism has been embodied in the Council Chamber! There is not a single detail without some deeper meaning, be it virtual or a reference to conventional and respectable virtues and ideals. Thorn Prikker's six figures stand for the virtues befitting a municipal official: truth, justice, authority, harmony, hope and belief in love. No references were made to the qualities we might expect from modern-day administrators or managers, such as the ability to look to the future or a talent for improvisation.

The same holds true for the statues by Mendes da Costa, which symbolize wisdom, action, unity and love. In the work of Krop, we find ourselves in the glorious past of Amsterdam, with Gijsbrecht van Aemstel and the first ships to the Dutch East Indies; in addition, there are labour and the future, depicted as a mother and child. In the visual language of those days, Holland's colonial wealth was depicted as tobacco, coffee and tea, and the Dutch spirit of enterprise by the four points of the compass: Polar bear= North, Elephant=East, Camel= South and Bison= West.
Readecker's statue at the rear wall of the Council Chamber shows three women. The one in the middle symbolizes Amsterdam. The other two carry little boats in their hands and depict the most important waterways of the capital, the Amstel and the IJ.
There is something odd about this magnificent Council Chamber, this parade of collaborating artists serving society. In its totality; the chamber makes a deep impression. If you examine the detail, however, you have to conclude that none of the elephants, Indonesians or mothers have been depicted in a manner that is truly surprising. There is no personal interpretation on the part of the artists regarding for example Holland's national past. The selected symbolism is quite traditional. A flawless image of the world is presented.
The Depression of the thirties marked the end of a seemingly stable world and heralded a new era ravaged by mass unemployment, Hitler's rise to power and the omens of World War Two. There was no longer much understanding for the ponderous symbolism and optimistic message of the Council Chamber and by the mid-thirties, the appreciation for the decorative arts of the twenties faded. After 1945, the generation for the Association of Craftsmanship and Applied Art was doomed to lengthy oblivion.
It was not until the City Hall was vacated in 1988 and a new prospect was sought for it that there was renewed interest, admiration and love for its cultural heritage. That was when it became feasible to combine forces to preserve this heritage much as you see today with admiration for the achievements and with a nostalgic smile for the message.

 

Marriage Chamber

The spacious stairwell, a typical Lansdorp element, serves as the link between the Admiralty Building and the New Wing. It boasts of stained glass windows by R.N. Roland Holst, an influential representative of the monumental arts of his day. Here again, the picture is a traditional one, with Gijsbrecht van Aemstel as the founder of Amsterdam images of labour, the source of prosperity and, as is clearly implied, of virtuous mortals.
There is a very special small hall in the New Wing, the First-Class Marriage Chamber, decorated by Chris Lebeau. Lebeau (1878-1945) was born as the child of poor parents in a drafty basement on Brouwersgracht. His primary schoolteacher discovered his talent for drawing and made sure he could go on to secondary school. After completing his training as a drawing teacher he spent a year studying at the theosophic Vâhana School founded in 1897 by architect K.P.C. de Bazel and decorative artist J.L.M. Lauweriks. Here students were taught designing based upon geometric figures, the square, the triangle and the circle. The theosophic discipline exerted an indelible influence on his life and work. Lebeau learned to master numerous techniques to perfection, including the ones so popular at the time: batik painting and damask and glass designing.
Lebeau was an anarchist, a teetotaler and a vegetarian. As anarchist, he refused to design a postage stamp with a portrait of the Queen. He was impassioned by the care-oriented social idealism of his day. When there was a mural to be painted at a secondary school in Amsterdam, he wrote to the city: "to contribute toward the upbringing of the youth is what I most eagerly desire." For Lebeau, art had a message to communicate, a task to fulfill.
Despite his great fame, he was on the list of destitute artists that Alderman F.M. Wibaut had drawn up in 1923. Since the mural at the school proved too expensive, the city commissioned Lebeau to do the murals for the new First-Class Marriage Chamber. He was in The Hague when he received the invitation and replied that he did not have the money to go to Amsterdam. Wibaut decided to send the artist he so greatly admired an advance of 500 Dutch guilders. Lebeau thanked him kindly.
The murals were completed in 1926. They were Lebeau's first murals and he was using a new kind of paint: Keimian mineral paint. "I have found wonderful paint; it adheres to the surface of the wall and no matter how rough the cement might be, we can venture to paint the finest little details," he wrote. By "we" he was referring to himself and the pupil he had assisting him, W. Cordel. Lebeau designed the walls, the ceiling and the stained glass windows on the garden site. Once again the chamber was viewed as a joint work of art. The tapestry by A. Grimmon, the wood carvings on the doors by Bernard Richters and the lamps by J. Eisenloeffel were in keeping with the style and spirit of Lebeau's murals.
To a light green background, he added his contours in olive green, turquoise and purple with touches of orange and gold. The flat human figures, without the depth of perspective, a rhythmic pattern in which the lines all curve toward the oval. The bodies are elongated, the eyes, mouths and, on the nudes viewed from the front, the genitals as well are stylized and mask-like. The secondary figures are in knickerbockers and short skirts. The space between the main figures is filled with angels in long robes, singing, blowing long trumpets, or playing the harp with bizarre claw-like hands. What little space is left is filled with flower motifs and series of small angels. The ceiling is decorated in the same colours, as if you are inside a jewelry box.

Almost sticky sweet, almost hard, sentimental and cerebral at the same time, an inescapable message envelops you like a psychedelic heaven. And of course that is what it is. Here the whole pathos of community art, eastern mysticism and theosophical ethics comes at you in a form that approaches total perfection, a belated surge of what once enchanted our grandparents as Art Nouveau or Jugendstil.
Symbolism? Indeed there is not a single line that does not have some symbolic connection. The story that is told here is a simple one. A girl and boy meet and a burning heart reveals the outcome: they fall in love. The pure virgin is carrying a lily, and is not seduced by gifts like a mirror (vanity!) or the luxury of jewels, money and liquor. The pure young man to the left of the door is carrying an owl that covers his entire torso. How wise he is with his owl, and how free he is of impure desires.
A wedding is taking place on the stained glass windows, quite respectably in contemporary attire. The procession of guests coming to give the bridal couple their gifts was inspired by a wedding ceremony Chris Lebeau once attended at the court of the Sultan of Yogyakarta. As we 'read' on, we come to the southern wall, where family life, maternal care and paternal admonitions set the tone. Was this the work of an anarchist, a long-haired bohemian with an unkempt beard and bare feet in sandals? Yes, but he was an anarchist imbued with the ethos of the late nineteenth-century Arts and Crafts movement.
Yet the First-Class Marriage Chamber is more than the final chord of that grand symphony. What with the equal roles so automatically attributed to man and woman, the latest fashion in clothes with the stylish ladies' pumps and the way the nudes are depicted, it was modern in its own day. It seems as if the free spirit of the artist was not satisfied with the conventional conception of form and contents and tried here and there to shed the cloak of conventionality.

 

Depression, War and Liberation

The changes that took place after 1930 also affected Lebeau's Marriage Chamber. As befits a Depression, the spirit of the time became sober and strait-laced. That is why, during World War Two, when Holland was occupied by the Germans, the last democratically elected City Council wanted to hide the murals from view.
The decision was made without any pressure on the part of the occupation authorities. On 24 February, 1941, the Alderman of Public Works sent a letter to this effect to the Director of Public Works. The next day the February strike broke out to protest the Jewish deportations and as a result the mayor and Aldermen were removed from office by the Germans and the City Council was abolished. Several weeks later the Director of Public Works, who saw no reason to leave, calmly wrote to the new Alderman appointed by the German authorities that this question had yet to be settled. The Aldermen replied in turn that he agreed with his predecessor because the murals were not in keeping with the dignity that should characterize a representative chamber of this kind.
Chris Lebeau read about it in the morning paper on 1 April. He wrote a furious letter of protest, which did not however lead to the result he had in mind. Laths were nailed to the walls and wallpaper was put up. The murals were now totally hidden from view.
In the war, Lebeau used his skills as graphic artist to forge identity papers. He was arrested on 3 November, 1942. Via the prison in Scheveningen and the concentration camp in Vught, in May 1944 he was deported to Dachau. He was extremely weak by then, due in part to the fact that he refused to eat any food that could contain meat, even the soup that was the daily fare at the camp. He died on 2 April, 1945, three weeks before the American troops arrived to liberate the camp.
Amsterdam was liberated on 7 May, 1945. After the Germans fired their last fatal shots that afternoon at the crowd gathered at Dam Square and labouring under the misconception that the liberation had already come, in the evening a column of ten Canadian tanks entered the city. The commander, Major Hamish Taite of the First Canadian Army, held a meeting with the new municipal authorities at City Hall. The meeting was attended by Feike de Boer, the new (acting) Mayor, the Municipal Secretary S.J. van Lier, who had been dismissed by the Germans because he was of Jewish descent, M. Heijder, Commissioner of City Hall, and Mayor C.F. Overhoff, Commander of the Domestic Forces in The Netherlands, the Dutch underground army.
When Major Taite arrived at City Hall with his adjutant, they found the gate locked. Cheered on by a crowd of curious spectators, the two officers of the greatest victorious army the world had ever seen, had no choice but to climb over the fence! Amsterdam had been liberated.


Children Asking


A few years after the war, the building was once again to play a role in the evolution of art in Amsterdam. Willem Sandberg, the renowned director of the Stedelijk Museum (Municipal Museum) in Amsterdam who believed in a close link between the processes in society and in art, later wrote that for years he had been impatiently waiting for the moment when the wartime and occupation experiences and their repercussions in society would become visible in art That moment came in 1949. When a new international art movement emerged involving artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam: COBRA.
Even before Sandberg opened the Stedelijk Museum to COBRA in November 1949, the city had commissioned COBRA painter Karel Appel to paint a mural for the City Hall canteen.
Karel Appel, born in a working-class district in Amsterdam called the Dapperbuurt (The neighbourhood around Dapperstraat), attended the National Academy of Art. When he first saw Picasso's work after the war, it gave him just the jolt he needed to go off in pursuit of his own visual language. Late in 1947 he wrote to his childhood friend Corneille: "(…) I suddenly found it (in the dead of night) and now I am making a forceful primitive work more forceful than black art and Picasso. Why, because I am going on from the twentieth century, emerging from a Picasso. Brightly coloured I have bashed through the wall of Abstract, Surrealism etc. My work implies everything (…)"
Less than half a year later on 14 March, 1949, the mural at City Hall was finished. On the relatively small wall of the oblong room, Karel Appel had made a sober composition of several matte fields of colour, with strong black lines outlining the contours of hungry children. The children are simplified into the primitive figures of children's drawings. The faces merely consist of two black dots showing the eyes. This is the mural called Children Asking.

On a train trip to Copenhagen, Appel had seen the hungry children of post-war Germany begging at the train stations and asking for food. The faces of these children had inspired the mural at City Hall.
The mural was accepted, but the city authorities had not taken the civil servants who worked at City Hall into consideration. They felt the mural was 'ugly, ridiculous and upsetting'. How could anyone sit down and enjoy his lunch with the eyes of those children focused on him? The press took the side of the disgruntled civil servants and turned against that weird art. The Mayor and Aldermen, who did not patronize the canteen themselves, had little choice but to comply with the wishes of the people who did. At the end of 1949, Children Asking was covered by a partition.
Within a quarter of a century, two boys from Amsterdam's working-class neighbourhoods had painted murals at City Hall, both of them extreme in their form and contents and both of them controversial. It is difficult however to conceive of any two artists more different than Chris Lebeau and Karel Appel. In Lebeau's work, the utmost in technical perfection serves to tame the emotions. In Karel Appel's, there deliberate abandonment of all the rational barriers and thresholds, a dissociation from the entire system of technical refinement, in an effort to get as close as possible to the source of the emotion. The fact alone that both works of art had to be hidden from view testifies to their force. The emotion, whether shackled in technique or flung open in the eyes of children, hit the mark.
In the course of time, the works were made accessible to the public again. The Marriage Chamber was the first in line. In 1953, Mayor Arnold J. D'Ailly put an end to all the hesitation by taking a knife and cutting away the wallpaper nailed to the laths. Peter Alma performed the necessary restoration of Lebeau's work. After City Hall moved, Wil Werkhoven did another thorough restoration job on the mural using the original Keimian mineral paint.

All that time, the figures on the walls and windows were witness to any number of marriage vows. Even today, with the building in use as a hotel, marriage ceremonies can still be held on certain days. So it is not only the adornment of this very special chamber that has been restored, but its function as well.
In 1959 the partition covering Children Asking was removed. In her 1973 dissertation on COBRA, Willemijn Stokvis felt it was "incomprehensible that this rather tranquil composition, which is absolutely not overly dominant in the room it was made for but has totally blended into it and lives it up in quite a pleasant way, gave rise to so much indignation, repugnance and derision." More than twenty years later, we can conclude that Karel Appel's mural is quite a bit more forceful than he suggested and still has an appeal that is once again very relevant today. The artist was ahead of his times. His visual language has since been accepted, but our reaction to it is still as emotional as ever.

 

From City Hall to Hotel


Despite all the adornments, Princenhof was not an administrative centre equipped to serve a representative function in a large mercantile city. An odd conglomerate had developed of facades and chambers, staircases and corridors, light shafts, doorways, windows, rooftops and eaves. Today's guest at The Grand is confronted with quite a different sight. When it was converted into a hotel, sizable improvements were made on the entire interior.
A feeling of nostalgia remained in Amsterdam, a yearning for the "real" City Hall on Dam Square, temporarily at the disposal of the Royal Family. Mayor Willem de Vlugt had trouble accepting the idea of simply terminating the "loan" to the nation. He felt this to be an insult to the Queen, and refused to take responsibility for it. So there was no choice but to build a new City Hall. As remuneration for the expenses, the national treasury granted the city the sum of ten million Dutch guilders in 1935.
After the Second World War, part of the Jewish district, where many of the buildings had fallen into disrepair or been torn down after the Jews were deported by the German occupying forces, was set aside as the site for the new City Hall. In the spring of 1979, Viennese architect Wilhelm Holzbauer, who had won the design contest for the City Hall a decade earlier, wrote to mayor Wim Polak and suggested combining two buildings that Amsterdam sorely needed – a City Hall and a Music Theatre – into one plan. On 9 April, 1979, Prime Minister A. van Agt approved the plan, but not without adding the comment "As long as it isn't any more expensive." The two-in-one building materialized, though in the end it cost much more than the budget specified….
The new City Hall/ Music Theatre was opened in 1987 and 1988. For some time, the fate of Princenhof was uncertain. Concerned citizens were apprehensive that the cultural treasures it housed would be lost if the building was sold or used for some new purpose. The City Council passed a resolution by Els Egsteribbe (Labour Party), stipulating that the cultural valuable items at the old City Hall remain inviolable.
In the end, the building became the site of five-star hotel The Grand in 1992. The new owner did an excellent job of restoring the building. No expense was spared to replace or repair even the missing or damaged hinges and locks in the old style. The old Council Chamber, the beautifully carved wooden doors, the stairwells and stained glass windows have all been preserved. Karel Appel's Children Asking was restored by Elizabeth Bracht. The former canteen for civil servants was converted in Art Deco style into today's restaurant Bridges. We have already seen how Chris Lebeau's Marriage Chamber was restored.
As a result of the acquisition of the Princenhof, which had been occupied by the "Hooghe School voor de Kunsten" since 1985, The Grand opened in February 1998 the new Conference Wing. It occupies an entire city-center block and the hotel has more than doubled its function space. This building has been renovated and redecorated in a simple but regal style with heavy cotton damask fabrics with bold stripes or chenille-like velvet. The predominant colour of the carpets and drapes is a rich ancient red, with beige walls to make the room brighter. The walls are enhanced by reproductions of Dutch and French coats of arms, as well as by portraits of Holland's nobility through the ages and reproductions of old maps of the Netherlands and Flanders. In an interview, a City Planning official said, "They are obsessed by the Princenhof….nothing is too crazy for them. And nice people like that are just what Amsterdam needs."

 

 

 

 

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