Capital of the Netherlands
Seventeenth-Century Canal Ring Area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht
Location and site
The historic urban ensemble of the canal district of Amsterdam was a project for a new ‘port city’ built at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries. It comprises a network of canals to the west and south of the historic old town and the medieval port that encircled the old town and was accompanied by the repositioning inland of the city’s fortified boundaries, the Singelgracht. This was a long-term programme that involved extending the city by draining the swampland, using a system of canals in concentric arcs and filling in the intermediate spaces. These spaces allowed the development of a homogeneous urban ensemble including gabled houses and numerous monuments. This urban extension was the largest and most homogeneous of its time. It was a model of large-scale town planning, and served as a reference throughout the world until the 19th century.
The Amsterdam Canal District illustrates exemplary hydraulic and urban planning on a large scale through the entirely artificial creation of a large-scale port city. The gabled facades are characteristic of this middle-class environment, and the dwellings bear witness both to the city’s enrichment through maritime trade and the development of a humanist and tolerant culture linked to the Calvinist Reformation. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Amsterdam was seen as the realization of the ideal city that was used as a reference urban model for numerous projects for new cities around the world.
Criterion (i): The Amsterdam Canal District is the design at the end of the 16th century and the construction in the 17th century of a new and entirely artificial ‘port city.’ It is a masterpiece of hydraulic engineering, town planning, and a rational programme of construction and bourgeois architecture. It is a unique and innovative, large-scale but homogeneous urban ensemble.
Criterion (ii): The Amsterdam Canal District bears witness to an exchange of considerable influences over almost two centuries, in terms not only of civil engineering, town planning, and architecture, but also of a series of technical, maritime, and cultural fields. In the 17th century Amsterdam was a crucial centre for international commercial trade and intellectual exchange, for the formation and the dissemination of humanist thought; it was the capital of the world-economy in its day.
Criterion (iv): The Amsterdam Canal District represents an outstanding example of a built urban ensemble that required and illustrates expertise in hydraulics, civil engineering, town planning, construction and architectural knowhow. In the 17th century, it established the model for the entirely artificial ‘port city’ as well as the type of Dutch single dwelling with its variety of façades and gables. The city is testimony, at the highest level, to a significant period in the history of the modern world.
Defence Line of Amsterdam
Location and site
Extending 135 km around the city of Amsterdam, this defence line (built between 1883 and 1920) is the only example of a fortification based on the principle of controlling the waters. Since the 16th century, the people of the Netherlands have used their expert knowledge of hydraulic engineering for defence purposes. The centre of the country was protected by a network of 45 armed forts, acting in concert with temporary flooding from polders and an intricate system of canals and locks.
Since the 16th century, the people in the Netherlands have used their special knowledge of hydraulic engineering for defence purposes. The area around the fortifications is divided into polders, each at a different level and surrounded by dikes. Each polder has its own flooding facilities. The depth of flooding was a critical factor in the Stelling’s success; the water had to be too deep to wade and too shallow for boats to sail over. Water levels were maintained by means of inlet sluices and barrage sluices. Forts were built at strategic locations where roads or railroads cut through the defence line (accesses). They were carefully situated at intervals of no more than 3500 m, the spacing being determined by the range of the artillery in the forts. The earlier ones were built of brick, the later of massed concrete.
Criterion (ii): The Stelling van Amsterdam is an exceptional example of an extensive integrated European defence system of the modern period which has survived intact and well conserved since it was created in the late 19th century. It is part of a continuum of defensive measures that both anticipated its construction and were later to influence some portions of it immediately before and after World War II.
Criterion (iv): The forts of the Stelling are outstanding examples of an extensive integrated defence system of the modern period which has survived intact and well conserved since it was created in the later 19th century. It illustrates the transition from brick construction in the 19th century to the use of reinforced concrete in the 20th century. This transition, with its experiments in the use of concrete and emphasis on the use of unreinforced concrete, is an episode in the history of European architecture of which material remains are only rarely preserved.
Criterion (v): It is also notable for the unique way in which the Dutch genius for hydraulic engineering has been incorporated into the defences of the nation’s capital city.
The Stelling van Amsterdam (Defence Line of Amsterdam) is a complete ring of fortifications extending more than 135 km around the city of Amsterdam. Built between 1883 and 1920, the ring consists of an ingenious network of 45 forts, acting in concert with an intricate system of dikes, sluices, canals and inundation polders, and is a major example of a fortification based on the principle of temporary flooding of the land.
Ms. Femke Halsema
Mayor of Amsterdam
City of Amsterdam
P.O. Box 202
14 020 (local number)
Ms. Inez Weyermans
Project Manager of the Municipal Office of Monuments and Archaeology
Municipality of Amsterdam