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Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

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Canal Houses

Type: Residential
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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T he Netherlands is known for its unique architecture, and that architecture is best exemplified in its canal houses. In a country where land is precious people squeeze themselves into every available space. Most of these buildings are less than 30-feet wide. To make up for this shortfall, the Dutch learned to build up, and use steep narrow staircases to maximize space efficiency. Since you can't get furniture up those stairs, many of the houses are built to protrude, or lean over the street they face. At the top is a pulley so that large objects can be lifted in through the windows. The Dutch brought that space-saving sensibility with them to the New World when they founded New Amsterdam, which became New York. Large parts of New York City still have three- and four-story "brownstones" stacked next to each other like canal houses in their fatherland. In the photo presented here, you can see the variety of gables the Dutch use. Some serve practical purposes and can indicate a specific type of building, such as a warehouse. Others styles came and went with the fashions of the time. The third building from the left has an ornate neck gable, popular in the 1600's. The first building from the right sports an elaborate bell gable, and was likely put up in the 1700's. Some gables remained practical and in use for hundreds of years. Others may have seemed like good ideas, but disappeared in mere decades.

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Sunday, July 3rd, 2005 @ 8:34am

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