End 2008, the Amstelhof, overlooking the Amstel river, will have been turned into an extension of St Petersburg's Hermitage. Its a wonderful plan. The Amstelhof was built in 1681 as a home for elderly women and a few years later, for men. It was a nursing home ever since. It's a pretty sober building despite its river-frontage - at 31 windows wide, the longest river front in the city.


After 300 odd years of service, the Amstelhof was not exactly up to modern standards. So a few years ago some bright spark came up with the idea of transforming it into an arm of the Hermitage. What a location! One wing is already open and has staged several exhibitions.

The architect Hans van Heeswije, who is doing the conversion, says it will be nothing like the original Hermitage in appearance. "The interior will be classical, with a strict, symetrical formation. But it will also be like a convent, with corridors running along an inner courtyard. Visitors will have to be able to get lost".