Stopera (17)

This unique building, which is located in the famous Waterlooplein, has a two-fold function. Its name, Stopera, is a contraction of the words Stadhuis, which means City Hall, and opera. 

It is indeed a hybrid building, designed to fulfil these two functions and has existed as such since the mid- to late eighties. 

When, from 1808 onwards, the former City Hall in the Dam square became the Royal Palace, first for King Louis Bonaparte and then for William I of Orange and his successors, there arose a pressing need to find a new site for the city council and services. Initially, the City Hall was moved to the Prisenhof, but in the early twentieth century a new building was needed.

On a parallel basis to this need, a proposal to build a great opera house also arose. 

After discussing several proposals and projects, in 1967 the city council put the design and planning of the City Hall and an opera house in Waterlooplein out to tender. It was the Viennese architect Wilhelm Holzbauer who eventually won the construction award. Things, however, did not go as quickly as expected, and the project once again come to a standstill.

In 1979, Holzbauer proposed that the City Hall and the opera should be accommodated in a single complex and the idea was eventually approved on a national level in 1981. 

After the long odyssey to start construction, there came protests and criticisms of the proposed aesthetics and groups particularly opposed the site of the new building. 

The controversy arose because the Waterlooplein was the site of the most visible traces of Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter, which had been severely damaged by the war and subsequently demolished to build the underground. For opponents, the construction of a macro-complex with aesthetics that left a lot to be desired was the last straw. 

When work began, several altercations and demonstrations took place in this square. 

If that were not enough, construction of the Stopera went seriously over-budget. To get an idea of the scale, a little background is required. When it was eventually decided to assign the Royal Palace in the Dam to the Dutch Crown, the state paid ten million florins to the council to build a new City Hall. If you occasionally worry about overspending when shopping then take note of this: the Stopera outran its original budget by 110 million florins. The figures are breathtaking. 

Notwithstanding, if you visit the Waterlooplein, attracted by the flea market held there, you will be struck by the contrast of the small, disorderly stalls, with their second-hand goods displayed on the floor, and the striking building before you. 

As stated previously, the Stopera is home to the Stadhuis, or City Hall, and the Muziektheater, a theatre for opera and ballet.

It is a huge, compact building with a curved facade, sited on a curve in the Amstel. Its bunker-looking appearance is broken by the windows on the facade, which offer views of the river from inside the building, thus integrating it into its surroundings. In the interior corridor of the City Hall some transparent vertical tubes have also been installed so the water level in Amsterdam may be observed.

At the entrance to the opera house, a sculpture on a cellist seems to emerge, breaking the tiles, from beneath the floor, in an expression of the modernity proclaimed by the Stopera. 

After the awkward history of the construction of this building, the Stopera now stands modern, colossal and proud, despite opposition to it. There is thus nothing else for it but raise your eyes, take a look and say what you think.

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