Look! Amsterdam


Amsterdam has been drawn numerous times in intricately detailed drawings between the year 1700 and 1800. Amsterdam City Archives displays the best ones during Look! Amsterdam, the first ever retrospective exhibition on this art form. The drawings connect visitors closely with Amsterdam and its people back in the day. The city is still recognizable in the drawings: they feature well-known sites such as the Dam, the canals, the Amstel river and Amsterdam’s waterfront the IJ. In addition, small gateways, tiny streets and unrecognizable places are depicted as well.

The detail in many of the drawings is so great that magnifying glasses must be used to study them. Tiny pamphlets on the walls can actually be read and tens of thousands of bricks are individually coloured. The drawings have been magnified up to a hundred times to do all these details justice. The maginifications are printed and placed in the exhibition, enabling visitors to walk through a diorama of city sights. The magnifications are combined with video footage of 2017 Amsterdam in lively animations, which are projected on a seven meter wide wall.



Term: 15 September 2017 – 14 January 2018
Year: 2017
Location: Amsterdam City Archives


Photography: Mike Bink

“The average stay of a visitor in our exhibition has never been as high as it was in Look! Amsterdam. Courtesy of the 18th century artitst and the 21st century designers at Synergique.”
Ludger Smit – Curator Amsterdam City Archives
Life-size diorama

The drawings can be viewed using a pocket lens whilst walking around life-size magnifications.

Kijk Amsterdam
Colourful exhibition layout

The exhibition is divided in five parts, each corresponding to specific part of the city, indicated with different coloured walls. You walk by several staples of the city of Amsterdam, such as the Dam and the canals.

Blending animations

The 200 year old drawings of the city blend and merge with video footage of modern day life on a large projection surface,
helping visitors recognize the spaces.

Cardboard set

Magnified drawings are built as cardboard set pieces to enhance the illusion of an enormous shoe box diorama. The profile of the cardboard is visible at the edges of the set pieces.