during a historical evaluation of the the noordermarkt 30, a seventieth-century building we are currently working on, a striking discovery has been made. hanging freely in space from the right façade is a hard stone kitchen sink. almost hitting the neighbouring wall of the Noodermarkt 29, its dimensions are 40 centimeters wide and 30 centimeters deep. looking into the basin, its profile of rounded edges contrasts from the bottom face, which is rough cut stone. directly behind the sink is a lead tube connected to a brick sewer, which was once used to discard dirty water.
was this a unique discovery? did other buildings of this time also have such a discard system? the discovery of this outdoor sink has sparked the curiosity to explore further into the hidden architecture of amsterdam.
besides the noordermaarkt 30, eleven more hanging sinks belonging to seventieth and eighteenth century buildings have been found, and it is expected that others will be soon be uncovered. all the sinks are made of hard stone, generally without any decorative motives, and may vary from a rectilinear to round form. in general, the sinks appear to be made of recycled parts and are set in either a brick or wood cupboard or no cupboard at all.
the question still remains over the origin of these sinks and if they are genuinely a feature of the Amsterdam town house?
amsterdam has had long lasting problems over the subject of water. not only concerning the city’s soggy soils for construction, but also the quality of portable water. amsterdam’s canals were flowing with sewage and in actual fact it was necessary to import clean water for people to use. over the years, water transportation and storage systems were improved, reducing the spread of disease, thus causing a radical population growth by the golden age. with more inhabitants in the city, houses were getting ‘split’ into separate apartments, and people began moving into the upper floors. previously, the upper floors of these traditional houses were used as storage space and therefore had no direct drainage system. at the time, there was one obvious solution to this problem and the new residents would simply throw their rubbish and waste out of the window. this quickly became intolerable to amsterdamers and by 1565, the next solution was found and the first of these exterior sinks appeared on the faces of the city’s buildings.
the original article called "gemeenschappelijke uitpandige gootstenen in amsterdam", by michel van dam, can be found in monumenten amsterdam archeologie, volume 9.