Change doesn’t necessarily mean renouncing one’s roots. A former bank in central Amsterdam is now X BANK: a hotel, art gallery, store and spa
In the center of the ever-evolving Amsterdam sits X Bank, a concept store selling works by emerging Dutch artists. It’s located inside the Kas Bank building, a former financial institution a few steps away from Dam square. The Singel – the first canal dug in Amsterdam between 1428 and 1450 – is a waterway which for many years has been synonymous with the city’s history and its borders. It once acted as a defensive rampart, protecting the expanding city center. Until 1585, Amsterdam (from the river Amstel and the word ‘dam’) developed only inside the perimeter defined by this canal: Kas Bank is inside the original nucleus of the Dutch capital.
The building was built in 1908, and designed by architect F. W. M. Poggenbeck: a novelty for the city of Amsterdam, the first construction in cement. As a banking institution, Kas Bank was equipped with an underground vault, a monumental ground-level atrium, and employee offices on the upper floors. The building is first expanded in 1932, but the real transformation comes in 2015, when it is bought by Europe Hotels Private Collection, which turns it into the W Amsterdam. They also incorporate the neighboring building, erected in 1928, which originally housed the telephone switchboard for the Dutch capital.
The monumental character of the original architectural structure has been preserved. Dutch architect Uri Gilad and Israeli interior designers Alon Baranowitz and Irene Kronemberg developed the project, while Willem-Jan Kuipers designed the spa. A book was dedicated to the project, The Story of a Bank that Became a Spa, published in 2017 by Design Story Publishing. The halls and restaurants of the W Amsterdam have been set up inside the original structures. The marble details, reminiscent of the 1920s, characterize Duchess, the restaurant located in the Bank’s hall. On the roof is the W Lounge, where cocktails can be sipped on seats arranged around a swimming pool.
The X Bank shop spans 700 square feet. One hundred and eighty artists from the fields of art, design and fashion have a space here. The store, accessible from Spuitstraat 172, is open all week. For the first two years, items had to be purchased in person, but from 2017 X Bank has started operating online.
Today, the store offers a selection of 132 articles, with prices ranging from 7.5€ for a set of Playing Cards NL (where the eight of spades shows Arjen Robben, a still-active Dutch soccer player) to 750€ for the Magic Morocco bracelet by Bjorn Van Den Berg (24-karat gold plated metal with colored crystals). Among the other articles are magazines, books, clothing garments and customizable accessories – the uniting thread: all Made in Holland. X Bank has collaborated with artists and brands. The designer Esther Dorhout Mees created a semi-couture clothing line in 2016. Among the other collaborators is David Laport, winner of the International Woolmark Prize in European Womenswear in 2017.
From X Bank, one can also buy the limited edition Love Rocks Ice Cubes from Stoned Marble –in pink marble–, the Delfter Piep Egg by Brutus Kookt, a utensil for boiling eggs which sings Dutch songs when its job is done (In Holland Staat een Huis, Twee Emmertjes Water Halen and Wilhelmus, depending on the egg’s cooking point). Two other articles revolve around eggs in the store: Marcel Wanders’ ceramic Egg Vases, available in gold and silver. To create the egg shape, Wanders used hardboiled eggs inside a latex condom.
Another one of the artist’s works, who was born in Boxtel in 1963, is exhibited as part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City: his Knotted Chair (1996), a chair built from a structure made of a carbon fiber core and a layer of kevlar, hardened with epoxy. Wanders’ fame inside the Netherlands grew after he collaborated with Peter Lute in 2005 to create the Lute Suites, seven eighteenth-century cottages outside of Amsterdam looking onto the Amstel river.
Text Francesco Gabriele De Vivo