The New Rijksmuseum. Rehabilitation, Adaptation and Expansion. Atelier Building
Cruz y Ortiz arquitectos
Location: Amsterdam, Holanda
Photography: Luuk Kramer, Duccio Malagamba, Jose Manuel Ballester, Pedro Pegenaute
The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum building was designed in the late nineteenth century by Dutch architect Pieter Cuypers. The function of the building was twofold: one part was the national museum, the other the gateway to the south of Amsterdam.
The museum use has had to pay an extraordinarily high price for the urban role of the building as a connecting element between the then existing city –to the north– and new developments to the south. A passageway, practically a street, crosses the building from north to south, dividing it into two parts, forcing the museum to have two entrances –both towards the north– and two major stairways, and meaning that only on the main floor are the east and west zones connected, such that the building remains divided by the passageway on its two lower floors.
There have been interventions on the building as well on numerous occasions over the last century: the needs for exhibition space meant building over the courtyards of the original building, which resulted in a total lack of natural light and made the tour of the museum a labyrinthine experience where the visitor did not have any data on their position in the building.
In a nutshell, the museum exhibited the usual shortcomings of museums of that period related to a constant increase in the number of visitors, i.e. a lack of a suitably sized hall and all those other services nowadays so essential such as information areas, shop, cafeteria, auditorium etc. And to this was added the total disfigurement of its original spaces, both in its courtyards as well as in its own galleries.
The intervention on the building was, initially, in order to open up a new and unique entrance to the museum admission to be housed in the central passage hall, and secondly, to recover the courtyards and exhibition spaces, regaining somewhat their original state, or at least their dimensions.
While the first of these purposes could not be carried out due to encountering the radical opposition of the associations of cyclists, it was possible to generate a large central hall to unite the east and west courtyards of the building under the passage. The large space that is generated by opening and connecting courtyards will house all uses essential for receiving visitors, and will provide a decent space on the scale that grandeur that the building deserves.
You access this hall from the passageway, and from there begins the tours to the exhibition areas, linking with the original grand stairs.
In the new space created, natural limestone has been used as a basic material, a stone of a type not present in other areas of the building, but which allows us to unite the old and the new without complacency in the juxtaposition or contrast. This same material was used in the two small interventions of the new floor carried out in the garden.
The courtyards, with slightly sloping ground, are connected under the passage, and on each one of them has been suspended a structure with an acoustic and illumination mission, the “chandeliers”.
THE ATELIER BUILDING: AN INSTRUMENTAL BUILDING
The Atelier Building, the building that houses the restoration workshops, is an important piece of the overall renovation project of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Since the main museum building will be devoted exclusively to exhibiting the collection, it was necessary to find another location for all other uses that were formerly housed there. From this need is derived the construction of the Atelier Building, a structure with a very specialized use that houses the various workshops involved in the museum’s restoration, from paint to furniture, from fabrics to ship models, from works on paper to objects of silver or porcelain.
This is a complex and demanding design, requiring heavy security and a high specialization of the various departments, with diverse needs of climate or artificial lighting. Natural lighting, however, was necessary: light from the north in each and every one of the outbuildings was one of the main factors that contributed to the final shape of the building.
As opposed to the direction that the building might have had, with the Atelier Building having the shape or character of belonging to the complex of Museum buildings, a more proximate contextual vision won out, where the choice was made to integrate the building into its block, although at the cost of making it more anonymous.
The building has been constructed on a neighboring site to the museum, on the other side of Hobbemastraat. The plot fronted two streets, to the north Hobbemastraat and to the south Honthorstraat, and appeared surrounded by other buildings, all of them autonomous and all built in brick: to the west the Manheimer Villa, a residential building that houses the management and administration of the Museum, and two more banal modern buildings for offices.
To the east lies a large building from the late nineteenth century, the Zuiderbad, really the first public pool in Amsterdam and, even more, another building of the same period which houses an old fire station. Except for the office buildings, all the others have varying degrees of protection as monuments, and this will have its importance in defining the volume of the new project.
Half of the site on which we should build was occupied by the Veiligheidsinstituut (Institute of Work Safety) building, an institution from 1917, certainly a pioneer in its field. The building, a design of Cuijpers, the author of the Rijksmuseum, had a very dual organization: firstly, it opened to Hobbemastraat with a body of a residential nature that housed the administrative part of the institution, and secondly, linked to this first built structure, the workshops for testing materials and elements used to improve safety at work.
Despite the fact that all the building enjoyed monumental protection, we sought –and achieved– permission to maintain only the Villa, much more accurate in its architecture, and demolish the workshops, the part of the building of most uncertain design.
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