Nearly 2,500 call on France to maintain landmark Amsterdam building

An online petition launched a week ago calling for the French government to drop plans to close its Institut Français in Amsterdam reached 2,340 signatures by Thursday at 2:30 p.m. The institute is shutting down as France is selling the building it has owned on the Vijzelgracht since 1966. The landmark building, known to many as Maison Descartes, also houses a French consulate. It was renovated for five years before its doors opened in 1971. Sources told the Parool newspaper that the cost of maintaining the building was simply too expensive. The petition has a goal of 2,500 signatures, and was started by French language teacher Adrien Scharrf in reaction French organization's announced closing date of June 30. “Establishing a new institute, “Alliance Française,” cannot take place before 2017,” he declared. The institute offers cultural activities, a large multimedia library and language courses, he said. “These services are indispensable for Amsterdam and should be continued. A French cultural institution must remain in Amsterdam.” A spokesman at the French embassy in Den Haag confirmed the building’s sale, calling it part of a package of reforms by its government. The institute has been in Amsterdam for over 80 years, also having called Museumplein its home before moving to Vijzelgracht. It provides language lessons to some 4,000 people annually, and has a library of about 35,000 different works, including books, documents, music and movies.