Many of Amsterdam's older buildings have decorative gables at the top. The canal house gables come in a variety of styles and additionally, give an insight into the history of the building.
A gable is the section of wall between the edges of a dual-pitched roof. They are visible on the tall elegant canal houses in Amsterdam, providing both an aesthetic and functional purpose through their winches. These winches are still used for lifting heavy or bulky items to the top floors.
Over four centuries, the design of the gable facades evolved according to the fashion of the times. Initially, simple triangular gables were used and an example is seen on the 15th-century wooden house in Begijnhof. Subsequently, from 1600 onwards, the step and spout gables were introduced. These had a more solid construction using brick and sandstone. The earliest examples were simple and functional but gradually became more elaborate. Next came the neck gable, with the baroque style of Louis XIV and also the bell-gable with an asymmetrical Louis XV style.
The best way to quickly sample the various canal house gable styles in Amsterdam is to take a walk along Brouwersgracht and Prinsengracht. Good examples can also be found in various locations throughout the centre, even on houses which are not directly next to the canals. It should also be noted that these gables are not unique to Amsterdam or even Holland. They appear in Belgium's cities such as
It should be noted that these types of gable are not unique to Amsterdam, or even Holland. They also can be admired in Belgian cities such as Bruges, Brussels and Antwerp.