The construction of De Hallen Amsterdam
an introduction to the electric tram
The city of Amsterdam is always growing. That was already the case in the nineteenth century. Trade, industry, work and living space: a good transport network was needed to connect all this.
The area where De Hallen is located now used to be water called the Kwakerspoel. Amsterdam experienced unprecedented growth in the seventeenth century and to cope with the rising demand for timber for housing and shipbuilding, the lake was was dug and made suitable for the construction of mills. With the completion of twelve of these structures, an area full of activity was created on the western outskirts of Amsterdam that would last until the nineteenth century. At that time, the timber market plummeted due to competition from cheap imports from abroad and the mills became vacant. The city was about to burst and it was decided to dampen the Kwakerspoel and demolish the mills to make room. Thanks to its favorable location, the new land turned out to be extremely suitable for the construction of a parking facility for the latest technological development: the electric tram.
Construction and original function
In the nineteenth century, horse and carriage were an important means of transport in Amsterdam. One of the first forms of public transport was the horse tram, which entered the city in 1875. Starting with a line that only ran between Dam Square and Leidsebosje, there were already fifteen lines in 1900. In that year it was decided to electrify the tram network. In order to park and maintain the trams the development of a tramdepot started.
The Hallen are designed by the Public Works Department. Commissioned by the municipality of Amsterdam, from 1850 to 1980, this service was responsible for designing buildings with a public function: bridges, schools, roads, and therefore also tram depots. The architects almost always remained anonymous. The tram depot consists of seven halls and an external carpentry and painting workshop (the current Hall 17 better known as the little passage) and was built in phases between 1901 and 1928. Characteristic of the building is the frequent use of bricks and the beautiful truss constructions that can be found everywhere in the building. Partly because of this, De Hallen has common ground with the Amsterdam School, a style in architecture that originated in the early twentieth century and distinguished itself by an expressive construction method. The current central passage runs from the Tollensstraat to the Ten Katemarkt. This large, light room used to be the ‘transversehall’. The trams arrived here to be led to one of the transverse halls with the help of special trolley for storage or repair.
"Twenty-five years after the introduction of the first horse tram, they decided to electrify the tram network"
Between 1901 and 1903 the first five halls and the traversing hall of the Tollensstraat depot were made. The traversing hall – the current Passage – was the space in which the trams were placed on a trolley and could easily be transported to the right hall using a turntable. Hall 1 (library) was used for inspection and maintenance, also known as the “major overhaul”. Hall 2 (cinema De FilmHallen) and 3 (foodcourt De Foodhallen) as well as the front part of Hall 4 (De Hallen Studio’s) were used as parking facilities. In the rear part of Hall 4 was the painter’s workshop and Hall 5 (Denim City) served as a wagon workshop: trams were prepared here to salt and maintain the rails.