color scheme by the Austrian G. Sturm and executed by G. H. Heinen. The room was restored in 1995.

The building of Amsterdam Central Station, “a palace for the traveler,” clearly demonstrates two issues that confronted architects and engineers late in the nineteenth century. First, after sixty years of building railway stations, they were no closer to finding an esthetic that suited the building type, fitted the new materials and technology, and removed the unnecessary tension between utility and beauty. Second, and related to the first, the nature of architectural practice was changing as increased knowledge called for specialization and the eventual replacement of the omniscient, not to say omnipotent, architect by a design team: architect, yes, but also mechanical engineer, structural engineer, interior designer, and consultant artist. That idea would not be enunciated until Walter Gropius wrote the Bauhaus manifesto in 1919.

Further reading

Hoogewoud, Guido, Janjaap Kugt, and Aart Oxenaar. 1985. P. J. H. Cuypers en Amsterdam: Gebouwen en Ontwerpen, 1860–1898. The Hague: Staatsuitgeverij.

Oxenaar, Aart. 1989. Centraal Station Amsterdam: Het Paleis Voor de Reiziger. The Hague: SDU.

Angkor Wat


Angkor Wat, a temple complex dedicated to the Hindu deity Vishnu, was built in the twelfth century a.d. in the ancient city of Angkor, 192 miles (310 kilometers) northwest of Phnom Penh. It is probably the largest (and, as many have claimed, the most beautiful) religious monument ever constructed. Certainly it is the most famous of all Khmer temples.

Angkor served as the capital of the Khmer Empire of Cambodia from a.d. 802 until 1295. Evidence uncovered since 1996 has led some scholars to assert that the site may have been occupied some 300 years earlier than first thought, obviously affecting accepted chronologies. Whatever the case, its powerful kings held sway from what is now southern Vietnam to Yunnan, China, and westward from Vietnam to the Bay of Bengal. The city site was probably chosen for strategic reasons and for the agricultural potential of the region. The Khmer civilization was at its height between 879 and 1191, and as a result of several ambitious construction projects, Angkor eventually grew into a huge administrative and social center stretching north to south for 8 miles (13 kilometers) and east to west for 15 miles (24 kilometers). The population possibly reached 1 million.

Apart from the hundreds of buildings—temples, schools, hospitals, and houses—there was an extensive system of reservoirs and waterways. The public and domestic buildings, all of timber, have long since decayed. But because they were the only structures in which masonry was permitted, over 100 temple sites survive. Earlier examples were mostly of brick, but later, the porous, iron-bearing material known as laterite was used, and still later sandstone, quarried about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away.

The city of Angkor was the cult center of Devaraja, the “god-king,” and an important pilgrimage destination. The Khmer kings themselves, from Jayavarman II (802–850) onward, had come to be worshiped as gods, and the temples they built were regarded as not only earthly but also as symbols of Mount Meru, the cosmological home of the Hindu deities. The official state religion was worship of the Siva Lingam, which signified the king’s divine authority. Jayavarman II had identified the kingship with Siva, and acting upon that precedent, King Suryavarman H (1113—ca. 1150) presented himself as an incarnation of Vishnu. He built Angkor Wat as a temple and administrative center for his empire and as his own sepulcher (which is why it faces west); to celebrate his status, he dedicated it to Vishnu.

Financed by the spoils of war and taking over thirty years to finish, the sandstone-and-laterite Angkor Wat occupies a 2,800-by-3,800-foot (850-by-1,000-meter) rectangular site. Its layout provides an architectural allegory of the Hindu cosmology. The temple is surrounded by a 590-foot-wide (180-meter) moat, over 3 miles (5 kilometers) long, which represents the primordial ocean. A causeway decorated with carvings of the divine serpents leads to a 617-foot-long (188-meter) bridge that gives access to the most important of four gates. The temple is reached by passing through three galleries separated by paved walkways. It is an approximately pyramidal series