EHLB building, Keizersgracht 174-176, Amsterdam

After demolishing all of my existing models in late 2001, I decided to search for another challenge. Amsterdam always fascinated me, but I didn't want to build the "ordinairy" monuments like the exchange, the Royal Palace or the Central Station. Besides this was (and still is) not attainable, when I look at my parts collection. However, the library was a solution; an apparently rather uninteresting, thin book about architecture in Amsterdam showed a picture of the Eerste Hollandsche Levensverzekeringsbank (First Dutch Life Insurance Company) at the Keizersgracht, a building I never heard about before, but it hit me at first sight. The building was asymmetric, still rather big, but attainable.
Searching through the web I learned more about the building and it's history. It also gave some more pictures. The archives in Amsterdam helped me with even more detailed shots, but unfortunately there were no original drawings avaiable.

The original
In 1904/05 two houes at the corner of the Keizersgracht with the Leliegracht were demolished for the new headquarters of the EHLB. The building, which received a lot of criticism from the people living in the centre due to it's height of 37 meters (121 feet), was designed by G.A. van Arkel (1858-1918) and H.H. Baanders (1849-1905) in a rather stiff version of the Art Nouveau. The building is mentioned as one of the first private office towers in the Netherlands. Typical for the work of Van Arkel, who, unlike Baanders, did leave his mark on the design, is the use of bays and balconies in different shapes, the open tower at the side of the Leliegracht and the excentric gables. Baanders' part in the design is not clear, though he did work for the EHLB company before. Likely the direction had more trust in a cooperation with a more known architect like Van Arkel, but we do not know for sure.

At first sight, the structure seems to be erected completely out of nature stone. However, this is only the outside; a concrete structure is hidden behind these walls. The basement was built up with a dark type of stone, and the rest of the facades with a brighter, gray one. Typical is the roof at the very top of the corner; it's shaped like a donkey's back, with on top a wrought iron fence with the company's initials "EHLB".
Also remarkable are the two mosaics, one on each facade. Both show a scene with a guardian angel who points the young widow on the life insurance her husband had at the EHLB!

The building was in use by the EHLB long after the 2nd world war. In 1968 the building was expended on both side by demolishing two of the neighbouring houses. With this the towereffect that Van Arkel and Baanders disappeared more or less, in my opinion.

The LEGO-model
For the model I choose the situation before the 1968 expension. Besides I liked the original design more than the current, the amount of gray bricks I had at that time was a good reason as well. As I already mentioned, I didn't had any original drawings, so I had to guess most of the measurements. By making small samples of significant details, like the round bays and the small tower. Together with the facades, I built a small part of the floors as well, in order to get some stability. And although I put some 12 volt lights inside, I didn't make an interior.
For the dome I choosed the colour blue, as I didn't have the right parts for a blue/greenish copper kind of dome. Brown could have been an option too, but it gave the same problem in the end. Maybe I'll change the colour in the future, if I can get my hands on the right parts.

The whole model is made out of LEGO, except the two mosaics; these were taken from pictures, printed and put on the building using two sided tape.

As the building is located between small canal houses in real life, I decided to build some myself as well.


Location: Keizersgracht 174-176, Amsterdam
Year of construction: 1904/05
Architect: G.A. van Arkel (1858-1918) and H.H. Baanders (1849-1905)
Commissioner: Eerste Hollandsche Levensverzekeringsbank


Height: 77,5 cm (2.54 feet)
Number of 1x2x2 windows: 248
Remarkable: completely built using old gray

Construction time: no idea (forgot to set the stopwatch)
Date: 2001 - 2004, 2007 (colour of the dome changed to brown copper)

Copyright 2001/08, Patrick Bosman
Webdesign/photography: Patrick Bosman
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