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8/2 Mayor’s portrait

8/2 Websites for social cohesion

7/2 Spreading tourism proceeds with difficulty

7/2 GroenLinks on districts: Be a man

6/2 Zuideramstel opens new office on Sabbath

5/2 The truth about integration

4/2 Wilders has little support on Amsterdam

3/2 Elite involved in neighbourhood

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31/1 Wooden rowing boats to disappear from Amstel

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27/1 Privacy activists to mess up loyalty card system

27/1 A few were still coughing, but that was an act

27/1 Chrisis in de Baarsjes

26/1 Youth have positive view of districts

24/1 Action groups call for Carmel and Jaffa boycott

24/1 PvdA members dismiss plan for districts

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23/1 District office not squatted

21/1 Merge districts

20/1 Closing squat bar Vrankrijk not necessary

20/1 Cleaners welcome new Schiphol director

18/1 Palestine at the Jewish Historical Museum

18/1 What is the right size for a district?

17/1 PvdA Oost against fewer districts

16/1 Committee: 7 districts by 2010

15/1 Soldiers may attend Afghanistan debate after all

15/1 Bait bike leads to arrest

14/1 Youth for Christ to republish vacancies

13/1 Paintings of the Zuidas

13/1 New Youth for Christ contoversy

11/1 Social cohesion initiative raises eyebrows

10/1 Fewer districts in 2010

10/1 Zuidas: People feel that we are losers

9/1 Fun on the ice - but not for all

9/1 Supermarket coupon fraud thwarted

9/1 I Amsterdam must remain exclusive

8/1 Use term Apartheid in every discussion

8/1 No city kiosk in Amsterdam yet

7/1 Snow

7/1 Fatima Elatik to run Zeeburg

7/1 Municipal managers to return to shop floor

4/1 Police: take photo of strange people

3/1 Gaza protest criticises politicians

1/1 Thousands to protest against attacks on Gaza

1/1 Mustapha Laboui leaves district council


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Evict the queen from the palace

Dirk Kloosterboer

No one seems to care that a large building is standing in the city centre, ‘fulfilling no usefull role at all’, observed architect Leo Q. Onderwater over two years ago. He suggested to return the former town hall, now used as a palace, to the Amsterdammers.

Others have joined him, including art sociologist Bram Kempers, the Centrum District VVD and, of course, activists’ magazine Ravage.

The town hall was designed in 1648 by Jacob van Campen and was completed in 1705. “It was a city within the city, with the Burgerzaal being used as a market, meeting place, political centre, ‘agora’ in the most literal sense of the word”, writes Geert Mak in his new book ‘De goede stad’ (The good city).

In 1808, the building was confiscated by Louis Bonaparte, bringing an end to its public function. Shortly after, the royal family started using it as a palace. In 1936, the municipality sold it to the national government, which now loans it to the royal family.

Only a part of the building is still accessible to the public and draws some 100,000 visitors per year. Until next year, the building is closed because of a renovation.

This renovation caused a controversy over the demolition of a monumental staircase to provide room for an elevator. As a result of the controversy, it became clear with how much secrecy the building is being treated.

The building drawings are secret, the construction workers had to sign a secrecy pledge and no ordinary citizen will ever see the results of the renovation, het Parool reported earlier this year.

In the nineteenth century, an advisor of Louis Bonaparte already warned that the building was not suitable for use as a palace: “The unusual location of the building exposes it on all sides to the curiosity and indiscretion of idlers and do-nothings”.

This problem persists to this day. The Centrum District is considering to build two storeys on top of the Food Plaza behind the palace, in order to make this buiding suitable for use as a district office.

This plan may be blocked because civil servants might be able to look into the palace. “With binoculars, they can see the queen walking around”, district council member Bernadette van Pampus (VVD) told het Parool.

Of course, this does require that the queen is actually in. However, she uses the palace only a few times per year.

In the Netherlands, squatting is allowed if a building has not been used for 12 months. This is a way to prevent valuable space remaining unused, with its concomitant negative impact on the livability of the neighbourhood.

Although the queen does use the building a few times every year, the same principle should apply here. A valuable part of Amsterdam is hardly used at all, and a huge closed building takes the life out of its surroundings.

Amsterdam’s anti-Orange feelings have all but died out and only a few incurable republicans will insist that the royal family is not welcome here. If the queen wants to wave to her people from the balcony every now and then, she is more than welcome. But during the rest of the year, the old town hall should be restored to its public function.

Illustration: Dam Palace, 1900 (Wikipedia / Library of Congress)

See also: What to do with the palace?


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