De Waag – Amsterdam, Netherlands - Atlas Obscura
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Amsterdam, Netherlands

De Waag

Amsterdam's former hotspot for public executions and dissections. 

Once a hotspot for public executions and dissections during the Golden Age, the medieval and castle-like “Weigh House” is now a global center for bio-hacking.

Once upon a time in 1488, De Waag was built as one of Amsterdam’s main city gates—which closed every night exactly at 9:30 p.m. to keep out the bandits, the poor, and the desperately diseased.

By the 17th century, when the city expanded due to its foreign fields of trade (and plunder), the building was rebranded as a weighing house for incoming products: tobacco, ropes, spices, artillery, slave chains etc. Towers were built to accommodate various municipal militias and guilds, including one for the masons who did all the evocative decorations over the various entrances.

Another tower housed the Surgeons’ Guild and its Theatrum Anatomicum (Anatomy Theater) that hosted public dissections (mostly of criminals who had just been executed outside) and formed the setting for Rembrandt’s famed The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp. So it’s squishingly fitting that this tower is now home to Fablab and its famed Bio-hacking Academy and Wetlab (open to the public on Thursdays between 4 and 8 p.m.).

At one time during WWII, the whole square was barb-wired off to enclose Jews awaiting transport to concentration camps.

Now it’s transformed into an upscale restaurant in the middle of a square at Nieuwmarkt.