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Graphic Design Museum, Breda, Netherlands

Thursday 06 Nov 2008

Containing graphic design

Photographer: Luuk Kramer 
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World’s first graphic design museum opens in Breda 

Breda’s Graphic Design Museum, which opened in June, is claimed to be the world’s first museum devoted to graphic design and a long overdue one for design diehards. Thus the project has drawn much curiosity, for — at the risk of sounding like a bad pub joke — what happens when architecture meets graphic design in a museum?

The Municipality Breda and Centre for Visual Arts De Beyerd commissioned architecture practice Hans van Heeswijk to answer this question. Besides documenting major milestones in international graphic design, among others, the Graphic Design Museum contains an auditorium, teaching centre and a graphics production house.
The main façade is retained from the building’s past as a hospital in the 17th century, and as an old people’s home. The rest of the building is re-made into new spaces and is also given an additional glass extension that houses the retail and administrative functions. The new spaces stand in marked contrast, boasting of a façade of glass and steel, materials favoured by the architecture practice’s founder, Hans van Heeswijk.
Van Heeswijk, is known for his stoic pursuit of transparency and lucidity, and this shows in the museum’s simple and straightforward design. The rooms follow the black-and-white monotone that was hinted at by the glass box’s façade, and each one is decorated, ironically, with only quotations. This simplicity encourages future exhibitors to play with the space. Care was taken to ensure strict controls of temperature, humidity and light, so as to preserve the exhibits in pristine condition. However for van Heeswijk, the biggest obstacle in designing this project were the space constraints for the site located in a tight, awkward corner. “We have solved this,” says van Heeswijk in an email, “by creating a complete extra floor below ground level, thus adding three large exhibition halls an auditorium for hundred people and depot."
The visitor is presented with four options of embarking on his/her journey through the museum upon stepping into the museum. The museum’s treasures would then unveil themselves in a smooth narrative that takes the visitor around the building, and the journey finally culminates in a spacious open-air rooftop terrace where visitors can come together to reunite, engage and reflect upon their experiences.

Zijia Wong

Key Facts

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Hans van Heeswijk

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