'The Bathtub'

21 Sep 2012

The expansion and renovation of the Stedelijk Museum by Mels Crouwel

The complete renovation of the Stedelijk Museum, located in Amsterdam's Southern district in the Museum Quarter, had just been unveiled this month. The construction by architect Mels Crouwel involved creating a new building, distinctively different to the original building completed by A.W. Weissman, in 1895.

However it has been designed so that the scales of both buildings are identical, creating a direct and seamless connection between all floors. The project aimed to improve the building so it meets current museum standards and additionally convert all the program spaces into galleries for the well known permanent collection housed there.

The new building is composed of two storeys above the ground and one below which will house gallery spaces for temporary exhibitions, visitor services, public amenities, library and offices. In addition the main entrance has been relocated onto the great public lawn of Amsterdam's Museumplein (Museum Plaza). This has created an active, common ground for the Stedelijk Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Concertgebouw.

From the outside, the new building appears as a floating form which spreads outwards at the roof, creating a broad and flat surface. It matches the height of the original building and creates an overhang where there is a sheltered outdoor plaza space at ground level. Underneath there is an entirely smooth white, oblong mass, canted upwards at one end and supported on white columns. This has already earned the space the nickname, 'the bathtub'.

Within the white form there are the second-floor galleries, auditorium and offices above it. The spaces are entirely surrounded by 271 panels of a pioneering new composite material which uses Twaron® fiber as its key ingredient. Down below the ground-floor level is entirely encased within transparent glass, housing the main entrance and lobby, museum show and restaurant.

Once visitors have moved into the main entrance, they are able to choose either to pass directly into the old building or travel upwards into the new building's exhibition galleries. Petra Blaisse, principal of the firm Inside Outside, has been commissioned by the Stedelijk to design an architectural-scale textile for the interior of the new building, covering the back wall of the restaurant and extending into the entrance hall, where it rises 14m (46ft) to the top.

"The Stedelijk Museum of Willem Sandberg, the director who put the museum on the international map, was our starting point. He stripped the interior of decoration and had it painted white, creating a neutral background for art. Our plan for the exterior is based on retaining the 19th-century architecture, adding 21st-century technology and painting everything in Sandberg white," commented Mels Crouwel.

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