Then and Now

From tram depot to the beating heart of Amsterdam-West


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.

Stadsarchief Amsterdam


Stadsarchief Amsterdam

The workshop

a new interpretation of the tram depot

Tram depot

The demand for new trams was huge and of course they all had to be maintained. The tram depot quickly turned into the beating heart of the neighbourhood.


The city grew. There were more tram lines and more space was needed for the trams. To meet this requirement, additional depots were built, such as the tram depot in the Havenstraat and the Lekstraat in the south of Amsterdam. The Tollensstraat depot was also expanded. Between 1908 and 1928 the building became somewhat bigger. For example, the spaces east of Tollensstraat were delivered (now known as the small passage of Hall 17) and put into use as a garage for trailers of trams. Halls 2 and 3 were expanded in the direction of Bellamyplein.

In 1932 the tram depot in the aforementioned Havenstraat was made a lot bigger. As a result, it was no longer necessary to park trams in the Tollensstraat. From that moment on, the depot in the Tollensstraat was used as a workshop only.

De werkplaats - Stadsarchief Amsterdam


During World War II, the tram traffic stopped completely and a large number of trams were transported to Germany.


After WW II, new trams were taken into use. These were often longer, larger models with multiple axes. Of course, these trams also required maintenance. One of the people who took care of this is Louis Dona. In the 1980s, Louis came to work in the tramdepot in the Mechanical Parts Workshop (MPW) as a bench worker and nowadays he gives guided tours in De Hallen. “On an average working day, there were about two hundred people in the depot. At my department we were with just over twenty people. Every once in a while a tram came in and had to be completely stripped. Everything had to be taken out. The parts went to the warehouse and later we picked them up for revision. After we had refurbished the parts, we brought them back and the tram was reassembled and painted. The forge was also in Louis’s department. “There was a hammer that hit so hard that it shook the jars and merchandise out of the display cases at the shops in the Kinkerstraat.” Louis has worked in the tram depot for more than twenty years and one of his best memories is when artist Herman Brood came by. “Nowadays they use these sticky plates to decorate the trams, but in the past they were completely painted by hand. Theme trams were sometimes painted by famous Dutch people, like Herman Brood. When he came by, the workshop was completely empty, I can tell you that. We had a great time with that man!


1987 – De Hallen in operation

"There was a hammer in the forge that hit so hard that it shook the jars and merchandise out of the display cases at the shops in the Kinkerstraat!"

- Louis Dona


The trams became more and more modern. And although the depot was constantly being adjusted, the newest models could barely enter the workshop anymore. There was no room for further expansion: the city had grown around the building. Since then, the functions of the depot have gradually been taken over by other workshops in the city.


Hans Kuiper / Dick van den Berghe

Farewell to the GVB

a new chapter for the Kinkerbuurt

GVB (public transport company) departure

With the opening of the more modern and larger workshop in Diemen, the GVB left the Tollensstraat tram depot for good.


In 1996 the show was definitely over for the Tollensstraat tram depot. The GVB started using the new main workshop in Diemen-Zuid and the building in Amsterdam-West was – after almost a century – no longer needed as a workshop. Louis Dona has experienced the closure from up close. “We absolutely hated it. Everyone did. We loved the neighbourhood of the depot. There was so much to do and see. In Diemen was totally nothing to do. But the fact was that we had to leave. The depot in the Tollensstraat just about fell apart. When it rained outside, it also rained inside. We had to put down wooden pallets to walk on, otherwise you could hardly walk through all that water. The building detoriated. “

De kraakperiode - Bert Meister

After a few years of serving as a shelter for museum trams, the Tollensstraat depot closed its doors in 2005.


Bert Meister


A large vacant building in the middel of Amsterdam? What a waste!


On Sunday January 31st, 2010 the tram depot was squatted. The group of squatters consisted of activists, young people and artists who had little faith in the plans for a new destination. The building had been vacant for more than five years at that time, and it was almost fourteen years since the GVB left. When the squatters were there, they wanted to use the space to develop small-scale cultural and social projects. They set up gardens and grew their own vegetables, opened up the space to the public with theater performances and other cultural events, and even built a swimming pool. After a lot of arguing between the squatters and politicians, it was agreed that they would leave the building as soon as there was a plan for the renovation and new destination that also had the support from the neighborhood.

View the video clip via AT5 (Amsterdam Television Station).


In the same year in whih De Hallen was squatted, the Tram Depot Development Company (Tramremise Ontwikkelings Maatschappij TROM) was established.


Hans Kuiper / Dick van den Berghe

The renovation

new entrepreneurs with a clear vision

New start

Na jaren van getouwtrek en mislukte plannen, komt de Tram Remise Ontwikkelings Maatschappij (TROM) in beeld. Een initiatiefgroep bestaande uit architect André van Stigt, buurtbewoners, toekomstige gebruikers en andere belanghebbenden en sympathisanten.

After years of discussions and failed plans, the Tram Remise Development Company (TROM) is founded. An active group of people consisting of architect André van Stigt, local residents, future entrepreneurs and other stakeholders and sympathizers.


Numerous plans for possible ideas for the future of the building were presented, but they all failed. They even thought of demolition at one point.

De renovatie - Hans Kuiper / Dick van den Berghe

The aim of the TROM was to give De Hallen a new, sustainable and high-quality function as quickly as possible and this had to match the needs and wishes of the neighborhood. At the same time, the building had to have a metropolitan appearance. And it had to be profitable.


the renocation (source: Monument op de Rails)

To achieve this, extensive discussions were held with the neighborhood and, in particular, what was possible with the building: the space determined what could happen in it. “Function follows form”. De Hallen was once again to become the working heart of the neighborhood and, moreover, a vibrant cultural center.

Spatial and accessible

Architect André van Stigt has made an effort to retain traces of the original function in the renovation plan. Tram rails still run through the central passage and the original stone number plates on the walls refer to the halls located behind it.

Because of the tall, long saddle roofs, which largely consists of glass, a lot of daylight enters the building. This is one of the reasons why De Hallen has a pleasant and spatial feeling, which is closely linked to the vision of the renovation: where the workshops of De Hallen were once closed spaces behind which work was done, the complex is now an open space that is accessible to everyone.

Architect André van Stigt en zijn partner Jet van den Heuvel


In October 2014, André van Stigt receives the ‘IJ-Prijs’ from former mayor Eberhard van der Laan. Van Stigt has made a clear contribution to the international profile and economic development of the city of Amsterdam.

Together, five years after the presentation of the first renovation plans, they officially open De Hallen on the 5th of February 2015.




Hans Kuiper / Dick van den Berghe

Lively meeting place in Amsterdam West

the future


From 1905, the place served as a tram depot for decades and since 2014 De Hallen has been a vibrant center for fashion, art, culture, f & b and crafts.

In 2019, De Hallen can no longer be ignored in the city.

Art & Culture

With nine movie theaters and a varied programming, De FilmHallen cinema is an asset to every film lover. Also visit the special ‘Parisientheater, which houses the historic interior of film pioneer Jean Desmet’s Cinema Parisien (1924). Next to De Filmhallen you can find Café Belcampo from where you can walk into one of Amsterdam’s Public Libraries. Café Belcampo and OBA De Hallen organize many cultural activities in De Hallen. Beeldend Gesproken, a gallery and art library for contemporary art, is located opposite of De Filmhallen. Do you see something beautiful? You can rent or buy all the artwork so you can take your favourite piece(s) home with you.

For an overview of all entrepreneurs based in De Hallen, click here.


Parisienzaal - FilmHallen

"The special Parisienzaal of De FilmHallen houses the historic interior of film pioneer Jean Desmet’s Cinema Parisien"

The working heart

The tram depot with its workshops used to be the “working heart” of the neighbourhood. The current interpretation of De Hallen also pays a lot of attention to recruiting and training professionals. Recycle is a bicycle shop and workshop where people with a distance to the labour market are trained to become a bicycle mechanic through day care.

Knowledge, innovation and professionals from the denim world come together in Denim City. It also houses the Jean School, a recognized ROC schoolcourse that works closely with major international fashion brands.

At Young Bloods, the youngest initiative of Kinki Kappers Academy, students between 16 and 23 years old learn the hairdressing craft with the guidance of educators who get them ready for the hairdressing profession within 12 months.

De Hallen now a days