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Hybrid Solution: Stedelijk Museum Celebrates Re-opening

Two buildings from two different epochs outside – and a spatial continuum with uniform material design inside. The long awaited re-opening of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam on 23 September 2012 revealed a spatial hybrid of extremes.

Architects: Benthem Crouwel Architects, Amsterdam
Location: Museumplein 10, NL–1071 DJ Amsterdam

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Old and new – an atonal duet. Mels Crouwel: We tried specifically not to design a transition between the old and new buildings. Photograph: Ernst van Deursen

The doors of the Stedelijk Museum remained closed to the public for a total of eight years. In this period of time, the most important museum for modern and contemporary art in the Netherlands was completely renovated and extended by a spectacular new building.

The most striking feature is a floating, completely closed structure of gleaming white synthetic material, fondly referred to by the architects as the "Bath Tub". Accommodating the actual exhibition areas inside, the construction aims for the biggest possible contrast with the original historical brick building on the outside.

Mels Crouwel: We believe that the appearance of a building should reflect the time of its construction. The old building by A.W. Weisman from the year 1895 was planned as a free-standing building. We have placed the extension half a metre away from the old building and not connected it directly, so that it is immediately obvious that this is a construction from the year 2012.

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Rendering: Benthem Crouwel Architects

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

The extension is split into three parts inside: the upper "tub" contains exhibition areas, a completely transparent ground floor serves as a generously sized foyer, restaurant, book shop and ticket desk; while a library and large gallery are located in the basement. Sectional view: Benthem Crouwel Architects

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

The extension of the Stedelijk Museum opens up towards the Museumplein. Photograph: Ernst van Deursen

In contrast to the introverted and detached exhibition area, the transparent foyer on the ground floor opens up completely to the surroundings. The new entrance of the museum is now located on the Museumsplein, an adjacent green space around which – though curiously with their rear sides – the "Rijksmuseum" and the "Van Gogh Museum" are also located. The latter is already planning a second entrance on the square. A subterranean connection between the two museums may therefore be possible in the future.

The bold juxtaposition of old and new is emphasised by the transparency of the foyer all the way round. A glass joint between old building and extension all the way up to the roof area separates the two structures from another visually. This allows a lot of light to fall on the old brick building as well as on the seamless façade of the extension. Both buildings remain recognisable as solitary structures.

This principle is completely reversed inside the exhibition areas: the transition between the different structural ages is smooth and almost unnoticeable. The old and new parts have the same oak floors and all the walls are white, in accordance with the legendary Stedelijk director Willem Sandberg, who turned the house into a "white cube" between 1945 and 1962.

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

The freely floating "Bath Tub" connects to the old building at various points, formulating a continuous exhibition area – a perfect symbiosis of introversion and extroversion. Photographs: John Lewis Marshall

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Immersion in a neutral white territory of art via tube passages. Photographs: John Lewis Marshall

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

The building envelope of the new exhibition area is a contemporary interpretation of the "white cube" theme, combining a white tending towards immateriality with a formal memorability. The architects chose a synthetic composite material for the polygonal building structure.

In places where resin would normally expand when the temperature rises, the added aramid and carbon fibres behave exactly the other way round: when the temperature rises, they get shorter and thicker due to their negative longitudinal thermal expansion coefficients. In combination with the positive thermal expansion coefficients of the matrix resin, components with high dimensional stability can be produced.

The result: a sleek façade with a length of 100 metres can be fabricated without the usual visible joints. The synthetic laminate skin is made up of elements which are 3 m x 11 m in size and connected by means of a steel construction. It was finally painted seamless, like a ship. Mels Crouwel: We used a material from the aircraft industry to make sure that the façade is still shiny in ten years.

Peter Popp

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Seamless, smooth and gleaming: an innovative synthetic composite material allows creation of surfaces without the usual joints.

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