Heritage of the Week | Sustainable monuments: The stock market

The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands has made a ‘traveling’ exhibition on making monuments more sustainable. This exhibition entitled ‘Maintenance of monuments? There’s more than you think ‘, can be seen for free in the Beurs van Berlage until 22 April. And it is – not entirely by chance – a well-known Amsterdam monument, which in itself is also sustainable.

Building for everyone, and always

If you dive into the Beurs van Berlage and the design idea behind it, a pair of sustainable bells will ring. At the end of the nineteenth century, the famous architect Berlage (1856-1934) designed a building that could withstand the test of time: the Koopmansbeurs or the Beurs van Berlage. Berlage thought ahead: Once the purpose of the stock exchange building had disappeared, the building should be able to retain its symbolic significance as a city palace whose expression of a palace representing Amsterdam as a city. Apart from the (flexible) function, Berlage designed the building stylistically in such a way that it broke with the past and at the same time announced the view of new architecture. He was not afraid of symbolism and any kind of activism. The stock exchange building was a fantastic laboratory for Berlage, a project where he could not only express all his ideas about a new architectural style, but also those about a fairer society. Based on the same collectivist idea, he wanted the new Koopmansbeurs to become a work in which different art disciplines would form an equal unit. This ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ was intended to stimulate the spiritual development of the people and would, according to Berlage, be a wonderful work of society.

Exhibition on urban development in Amsterdam in Beurs van Berlage. † Photo: Amsterdam City Archives image bank (010009014985).

Flexible monument

Berlage’s design thinking and foresight have become a reality. From its completion in 1903 until now, the Beurs van Berlage has been or has been a place of commerce, of municipal and state telephones, meetings that were a post office and a police station, a neighborhood secretariat, the Institute of Industrial Design temporarily moved in, it built a public-cultural function with space for the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra, the Beurs van Berlage Foundation organized various exhibitions, there were numerous events, gatherings, conferences and meetings, our king and queen were married there and the concepts ‘social’, ‘creative’ and ‘cultural’. During and between all this, renovations also took place, and renovations were needed. Fortunately, the building also proved to be ‘proof’ of this. Despite the necessary structural adjustments and changes in the decor, the monumental values ​​along with the building still stand proudly.

Beursplein in front of Beurs van Berlage.  † Photo: George Maas (2018), photo bank Amsterdam municipality.Beursplein in front of Beurs van Berlage. † Photo: George Maas (2018), photo bank Amsterdam municipality.

Investments for (further) future

It is important to make monuments more sustainable, also because it means that the buildings can be used for a longer period of time. Sometimes a building is not very flexible, designed for 1 specific purpose and therefore not suitable for different functions. It limits the chances of longer use than already. Fortunately, a building can technically often be made more sustainable. Energy performance can be improved by, for example, insulating and solar panels on the roof. That Berlage has been able to design a building where different uses or functions come into their own deserves great praise. But the owners have a large share in the ongoing success story. The Beurs van Berlage is very active in making the monument more sustainable. In recent years, the owners of Beurs have paid close attention to making the building ‘technically sustainable’. Various measures have been taken to improve energy performance. For example, investments have been made in heat pumps that have taken over the primary function of heating the central heating boilers. Thanks to smart control technology, the huge gas consumption has already been reduced by 25%. Like the rest of the building, these heat pumps are supplied with green energy produced in the Netherlands. In addition, Beurs’ ambition is to restore, insulate and, if possible, supply the roofs of the large halls with solar panels within 10 years. There is a close collaboration with the architectural firm BiermanHenket and the monument consultants in Monuments and Archeology. What makes the history of sustainability even more beautiful is that not only the monumental values ​​are preserved, but also the monumental ‘sustainable gems’ are used. The old monumental ‘high-fired’ radiators are now used, for example, for the low-fired system. ‘Modern’ (colder) water now flows through the old pipes – and Beurs is still a great place to live!

Ventilation grilles in the main hall of the Beurs van Berlage.  † Photo: Paul Nieuwenhuizen, Monuments and Archeology.Ventilation grilles in the main hall of the Beurs van Berlage. † Photo: Paul Nieuwenhuizen, Monuments and Archeology.

Inspiration from the National Service

Because no two monuments are alike (Beurs van Berlage is just one of the many beautiful examples), this means in practice that sustainability is always tailor-made. What can be done where and when can really only be explained on the basis of case studies. Oudezijd’s Voorburgwal 136, Green Light District’s icon project, can tick off almost all the well-known sustainability measures at the end of the story. However, the fact that insulating glass was used while the existing frames could be preserved does not mean that it is also possible with the neighbors. Or at the Beurs van Berlage. So how do you create an exhibition with general information about making monuments more sustainable? Cultural heritage enthusiasts and monument owners may not get the answer to their specific questions during the visit, but they can be inspired and get a push in the right direction. The Danish Cultural Heritage Agency’s (RCE) exhibition consists of interactive information columns, with which information is offered via text, image and video. The broad palette of sustainability is discussed: insulation, ventilation, heating and energy generation. Owners are thus helped to further explore the possibilities of their concrete monument.

The Cultural Heritage Agency's (RCE) travel exhibition on making monuments more sustainable.  † Source: RCE folder.The Cultural Heritage Agency’s (RCE) travel exhibition on making monuments more sustainable. † Source: RCE folder.

Sustainable Heritage Desk

On March 14, ’22, Councilor Meliani has the exhibition ‘Maintenance of monuments? There may be more open than you think. Hopefully, many monument owners and entrepreneurs will be inspired in and by the Beurs van Berlage. For even more inspiration and some more concrete help, anyone with questions about sustainability in relation to heritage can contact the office for sustainable cultural heritage in the municipality of Amsterdam. Because Amsterdam is of course trying to fulfill the ‘promise’ of the Rijksdienst (There is more than you think …). Amsterdam can become more sustainable and remain beautiful. Check the website www.amsterdam.nl/duurzaamerfgoed or send an e-mail to Duurzaamerfgoed@amsterdam.nl and colleagues from the collaboration project will help you further.

Heritage of the Week

Each week, the Heritage of the Week section focuses on a particular archaeological find, site, object, monumental building or historic site in the city. Via the website amsterdam.nl/erfgoed, Twitter @ arv020 and Facebook Monuments and Archeology, the cultural heritage experts in Monuments and Archeology share the city’s heritage with Amsterdammere and other interested parties.

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