De Bazel, Amsterdam

The Bazel building extends from the Herengracht to the Keizersgracht on the west side of the Vijzelstraat. The structure, which was built in collaboration with the NHM’s in-house architect A.D.N. van Gendt, is regarded as De Bazel’s masterpiece. Whilst De Bazel chiefly considered the aesthetics of the building, Van Gendt tackled the technical aspects of the design and what they erected is an outstanding creation. Whereas the neighbouring houses on the canal stand no higher than five storeys, ‘de Bazel’ counts ten, three of which are underground. Its width is one hundred metres, which is unusually large. After all, over six hundred NHM staff had to work there.

The foundation is composed of a supporting column structure of reinforced concrete. This meant that sections of the roof could be omitted, which led to an impressive incidence of light. Waal brick and granite conceal the concrete skeleton, with the result that when seen from the outside, the supporting walls of the building appear to be made from old-fashioned bricks.

Modernity dominates the inside. Ventilation pipes hidden in hollow floors coursed throughout the entire building. Grilles around the building extracted air and supplied heated air. Electric lighting was another novelty and the office complex even had an air-tube mail distribution system. The centre of the air-tube mail distribution system was located on the uppermost floor of the building and was connected with 35 stations.

Universal harmony

Five protruding sections (risalits) on the front façade reduce the immensity of the building and give it vertical features. De Bazel’s inspiration for this came from the architecture of ancient Assyria and Egypt, but he gave it his own personal touch. Ultimately, he wanted to break free from the styles of the period and create buildings of eternal significance. He found his muse in theosophy. A building had to be the complete expression of mathematical and universal harmony. The architect rendered his ‘divine’ work in perfectly symmetrical proportion which inspired a contemporary to the following eulogy: Regularity, well-chosen proportions and a splendid balance of line and colour dominate this temple that is a work of art.

When the Bazel building reached its pinnacle in 1923, it towered above the old canal houses on the Golden Bend [Gouden Bocht] of the Herengracht canal. Many inhabitants of Amsterdam were shocked, but the Planning Committee [Schoonheidscommissie] decided that a high-rise block was not out of place on the Vijzelstraat. In 1991, it was accorded the status of national monument. The building was bought by the City of Amsterdam to accommodate the City Archives in 2006 after radical renovations.



  • Construction
Project Information

Project Phase: Completed

Function category: Amsterdamse Ballast Maatschappij