Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Tuesday 22 Apr 2014


Award banner

The architectural vision for the museum was to return the internal spaces to Cuypers' original 1885 design, and to reinstate the late nineteenth century gallery proportions. The Rijksmuseum's museographers chose to display the entire collection chronologically, rather than by typology, so visitors will be able to travel seamlessly through 900 years of Dutch history. The visual result is a rare juxtaposition of Fine Art, Decorative Art and historical artefacts.

The project brief was to restore Cuyper's original internal architecture and layout, and to design the gallery spaces so that the collection did not touch the building's walls.  An additional design consideration was the collection's chronological display format. This ambitious arrangement required meticulous planning to successfully present contrasting artefacts side-by-side. The designs also had to incorporate sophisticated security measures to protect the priceless collections. Typical of Wilmotte & Associés SA's approach to museum design, the practice has introduced transparency and clarification of space to the galleries. This was a significant undertaking in a neo gothic building that contains heavy vaulting, rich ornamentation and an architectural structure punctuated with pillars and arches. Display cases were used to define and structure the scenographic system. These cases were essential for enhancing the objects on display and, since attaching anything to the walls was strictly prohibited, they were vital in terms of space making. 

The minimalist cabinets were designed without vertical struts. The anti-reflective glass is instead held in place by a top and bottom frame of extremely fine anthracite metal. To concentrate the gaze on the object and to accentuate the transparency of the case, there is no interior lighting; objects are illuminated from the ceiling. The cabinets are also detached from the wall to prevent structural damage and to manage humidity levels more effectively. In addition to the free-standing units, a number of cases have been placed on brackets and fixed to the masonry to create rhythm within the spaces.

Wilmotte & Associes SA designed a unique LED-based lighting system, developed with Philips Lighting, called Lightracks. Lightracks is a suspended system of both direct and indirect lighting that consists of a very fine metal frame on which spots can be plugged. Nestled in the framework, indirect lighting illuminates the ceiling creating a very soft layer of lighting in the vaults. The lighting creates a theatrical feel where visitors move from dark spaces to more luminescent galleries, in a range experiences that punctuate the journey. The Special Collections theme was developed using arch-shaped showcases, which create large glass surfaces. The very light structures frame the cabinets, giving the impression that they protrude from the wall, and are an extension of the arches. Some additional and monumental cabinets occupy the central spaces, creating occasional spectacles. 


Wilmotte & AssociƩs SA