The Stedelijk renovation and extension

Place: Amsterdam, Country: The Netherlands
Client: City of Amsterdam
Architectural design:
Benthem Crouwel Architekten
Engineers: Arup
Technical Engineers: Imtech
Photos courtesy of Stedelijk Museum

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Photo John Lewis Marshall, courtesy of Stedelijk museum

The Stedelijk museum extension | Benthem Crouwel Architekten

The Stedelijk has a long history in being “the museum” in Amsterdam for what concerns modern and contemporary art. Founded in 1895, the Stedelijk is housed since its opening in a Neo-Renaissance building, designed by Adriaan Willem Weissman. In 1938 Willem Sandberg, the director of the museum, decided to remove all the interior decorations and paint all rooms in white so creating one of the first “white-boxes” exhibition galleries in an historical building. After almost a century of uninterrupted activity, at the beginning of the 1990s the old building proved itself more and more outdated for the requirements and functions of a modern museum, lacking the necessary fire-safety and artwork conservation performances.
After a quite troubled process, in 2004 a design by Benthem Crouwel Architekten was eventually selected for the renovation and extension of the museum which was completed in 2012.

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Top left: Photo KLM Carto. Top right photo Ernst van Deursen
Bottom: Museumnacht 2012, Photo Ernst van Deursen. Courtesy of Stedelijk Museum.

The new 9,400 square metres extension is certainly the most important element of the winning design. It provides the museum a new entance lobby – opposed to the previous one – , up-to-date visitor services and additional exhibition galleries. But even more important, the new building creates an improved relationship between the museum and the surrounding urban space. Indeed, the Stedelijk, together with the RIJksmuseum, the Van Gogh museum and the Concertgebouw concert hall, overlooks the Museumplein park, creating one of the most interesting cultural poles in Europe.

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Photo John Lewis Marshall, courtesy of Stedelijk Museum

A white contemporary construction, completely transparent at its entrance level: the appearance of the new wing is conceived to be clearly distinct from the adjoining brick palace’s. Nevertheless its dimensions, and particularly its height, are carefully tuned on the Weissman’s older building. While with a rectangular footprint, the addition presents a peculiar shape in elevation, which also provided the building its “the bathtub” nickname: it progressively expands by rising up, ending with a large overhanging flat roof intended to provide a sheltered and gathering outdoor space projected into the park. Benthem Crouwel also wanted the addition to be a lightweight construction with a load bearing structure mainly made in steel and a highly innovative external cladding. This is constituted of 271 panels made with a composite material based on Twaron®, a para-aramidic fibre produced by the Dutch-Japanese company Teijin and usually adopted in boat construction. The use of a composite material permitted the realization of a seamless, light-weight, fire-proof and durable building skin.

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Photo John Lewis Marshall, courtesy of Stedelijk Museum

The building has three floors, two over and one below the ground. The entrance level contains the entrance lobby, a library and a restaurant ; the underground floor houses the largest free-span exhibition space in the Netherlands and a small theatre and performance space; other exhibition galleries are located at the first floor together with the connections with the old building. From the underground level the visitors can go directly to the first floor through a “yellow tube” enclosing two escalators, so that all exhibitions spaces on different levels are nevertheless interconnected without interruptions and distractions.

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Top left: Photo John Lewis Marshall. Top right: photo Merlijn Hoek
Middle and bottom left: photo Stedelijk museum Amsterdam
Bottom right: photo John Lewis Marshall

The exhibition galleries are quite neutral, white coloured and clearly inspired by the exhibition principles introduced by Sandberg in the thirties. The spaces at the upper floor are also provided with a natural lighting through a series of ceiling windows. From the inside the distinction between the old and the new buildings, so evident externally, almost disappears and is hardly noticeable. Along with the construction of the extension, also the 19th century building underwent indeed a complete renovation, thus establishing the Stedelijk, with an overall surface of 26,000 square metres, as one of the most noteworthy and up-to-date modern and contemporary art centres in Europe.

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Photos: Gert Jan van Rooij, courtesy of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

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Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Founded in 1874 in Amsterdam, the Stedelijk is a museum of Dutch, European, and American modern and contemporary fine art, graphic arts, and design

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