Between the Nieuwendijk and the Damrak lies a stunning arcade well worth a visit, the Beurs­passage (Exchange Passageway). The arcade is a 450 square meters (1476 square ft) work of art called Amsterdam Oersoep (Amsterdam Primordial Soup) by artists Arno Coenen, Iris Roskam and Hans van Bentem. It’s a visual narrative of how lifeforms originated from water, with the Amsterdam canals and history as its main subject. It is 8 meters (26.2 ft) high and 4.5 meters (14.8 ft) wide.

Entrance of the Beurspassage on the Nieuwendijk, Amsterdam

Entrance of the Beurspassage on the Nieuwendijk, Amsterdam

It features a glass mosaic-covered ceiling, a terrazzo-covered floor and tiles with gold leaf along the walls. The gold-coloured chandeliers are composed of bicycle parts, while the walls are decorated with stained-glass objects. A large fish mouth called “Take some Mokum with you” allows visitors to take a bottle of Amsterdam water home (“Tolerance Elixir” according to the artists). Mokum is the loving nickname for Amsterdam used by its inhabitants — a Hebrew word meaning place or town. The immigrated Jews called Amsterdam “Mokem Aleph”, Town A.

Design by Berlage for the Beurspassage, Amsterdam, 1903

Design from 1903 by architect Berlage for the Beurspassage (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

History of the Beurspassage

The former alleyway Baafjes­steeg (Baafje’s Alley) dates from 1416 (Baafje was a girl’s name, but we don’t know who this woman was). It shows first on a map from 1625. In 1876 this alley was located at Damrak 74. In the late nineteenth century the alley was roofed over and integrated in the office building of an insurance company. In 1912 the building was redeveloped as a store and headquarters for clothing company C&A. After a fire in 1963 left only the façade standing, a new building was erected in 1968.

Fishead and arcade, Beurspassage, Amsterdam

The name Beurs­passage (Exchange Passageway) was coined in 1905, named after Berlage’s Koopmans­beurs, built in 1903 on the Beurs­plein. In 2010 an extensive redevelopment operation named Nowadays (by American architect Robert A.M. Stern and the Dutch firm Rijnboutt) was started to redo the surrounding buildings at Damrak 70 and 80 and Nieuwen­dijk 196, crowned with the finished artwork in 2016. The arcade was moved to the north side of the building.

Beurspassage arcade at nighttime, Amsterdam

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