Forty Years of Bridges

By, September 20, 2014

Amsterdam is a city of water, formerly the world’s most important port, and criss‐crossed with canals. The canals of Amsterdam have always been the defining feature of the city. Originally utilitarian and used for transport, security and water control, they are now deeply imbedded in the identity of the city of Amsterdam. Amsterdam currently has more than 1500 bridges so the form of the bridges in a large way defines the form of the city. From 1916 until after the Second World War the only person designing bridges in Amsterdam was an architect named Pieter Lodewijk Kramer. At the time Kramer retired in 1952 there were fewer than 500 bridges, 220 of which he had designed. From the very beginning Kramer integrated decoration from local craftsmen into his bridge designs. Most often this was in the form of sculptures designed and carved by the sculptor Hildo Krop.

This is a story about two men who changed the face of Amsterdam, even though most people living in Amsterdam today have never even heard of them. The changes and additions at their hands have subtly but completely created a unified look for the city of Amsterdam. The way they did this was by designing the bridges. His expressionist bridges can be found in all corners of the city, and at one point more than half of the bridges in Amsterdam were from Kramers hand. The most representative of the bridges were decorated with sculptures by local artists, and Hildo Krop collaborated on more than 25 of these. Though their relationship was long-lasting, it was also tumultuous, with many clashes of interest between the socialist-idealist Krop and the more pragmatic oriented Kramer.

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