Stop Demolition Plans

Gabriël Metsu Street 2-6

The monumental buildings Gabriel Metsustraat 2, 4 and 6 are in danger of being demolished. We, as local residents and Amsterdam residents, are taking action against this and calling on the municipal and national authorities to avert this attack on Amsterdam’s historical heritage. It is not only  architectural heritage that is in danger of being lost, but this is also, in cultural and historical perspective, an attack on wartime heritage. After all, it is the place where Etty Hillesum wrote her famous war diaries in the small front room on the second floor of house number 6 with a view of the Museumplein, which was occupied by German forces. What threatens to happen here reminds us wryly of what she wrote in her July 1942 journal: “Our destruction creeps in on all sides.”
Should the memory of it now also be destroyed?

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Etty Hillesum lived at Gabriel Metsustraat 6 from 1937 to 5 June 1943. Her diaries, like Anne Frank’s diaries, are penetrating documents humains and can be considered milestones in literature. Due to wartime conditions, they are very localized, making this location inextricably linked to the tragedy associated with it. This alone makes Gabriel Metsustraat 6 a (war) monument: an important lieu de mémoire. Unfortunately, unlike France and Belgium, the Netherlands does little to protect this kind of memorial as part of our (cultural) history.

But it is even worse. The impending demolition is also an attack on the special architecture of the Museum Quarter. The Amsterdam municipal architect Adriaan Willem Weissman (1858 -1923) and engineer P.H. van Niftrik (1867-1941), son of the well-known urban planner J.G. van Niftrik, designed and built these buildings in 1900. Weissman is also the architect of the Stedelijk Museum, which opened in 1895. His work on Metsustraat alone therefore merits a place of higher architectural rank in the Atlas of the 19th-century ring. This is also the view of architectural historian Wouter van Elburg of the University of Amsterdam, who also represents the Heemschut Heritage Association. He does not understand why the Stedelijk Museum has been awarded order 1 (monumental status), while buildings Gabriel Metsustraat 2-6 are valued as the second to last order 3.  He regrets that Hillesum’s house has never been granted monument status.

Moreover, the Museumpleinarea is among the architecturally richest neighborhoods from the 19th and 20th centuries of Amsterdam. In addition to these buildings, there is also beautiful, 19th century Jugendstil architecture: in the Paulus Potterstraat along the square, in the Jan Luijkenstraat and in the cross streets that form the connection with the square. On the other side of the square, Cuypers, architect of the Rijksmuseum, built villas in the Johannes Vermeerstraat, on whose style was “built upon” by other architects. A special series of styles is also represented in the Gabriël Metsustraat, starting with the “Etty Hillesum” buildings with special ornaments that are characteristic of the time. Down the street is the beautifully restored RCO house, in which the style of Berlage, the original architect of the building, has been well preserved. Then follows the monumental apartment building of Amsterdam School architect De Klerk. Elements of the Amsterdam School can also be found in the other designs of the houses on this street. On the corner of the Johannes Vermeerstraat and Ruysdaelstraat is the Old Catholic Church, designed by a follower of Berlage. In addition, there is a beautiful residential complex by another Amsterdam School architect, part of a current that is strongly represented further southeast to the Amstel and towards the Amsterdam South plan by Berlage.

We attach great importance to the careful management of our neighborhood’s heritage. Fortunately, the Zuid District, the Municipality of Amsterdam, as well as the Minister of Education, Culture and Science are intent on stopping the irreversible effects of this impending attack on our national and municipal heritage.

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