Between the Nieuwendijk and the Damrak lies a stunning arcade well worth a visit, the Beurspassage (Exchange Passageway). The arcade is a 450 square metres (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 metres (26.2 ft) high and 4.5 metres (14.8 ft) wide.
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.
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.
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.
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