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Van Gogh Museum Extension: Completing the Circle

Posted by
Amrita Ravimohan Nayak
on September 24, 2015 at 03:03 PM

Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum has a new entrance on Museumplein, following in the steps of its neighbouring Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum. For the new entrance building, Kisho Kurokawa Architect and Associates made a sketch that was further developed, materialized, realized in record speed of 18 months and within budget by Amsterdam based firm Hans van Heeswijk Architects.

© Courtesy of Hans van Heeswijk Architects

The name of Van Gogh is synonymous with The Netherlands and vice versa. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is one of the Netherlands’ most popular museums. In 2014, 1.6 million visitor footfalls were recorded. The increased number of visitors required an updated solution for the museum buildings, which were designed by Rietveld (1973) and Kurokawa (1999). The broad outline of the design consisted of a further elaboration of the elliptical wing of the building that Kurokawa had built. Kisho Kurokawa Architect and Associates, the firm founded by the late Kisho Kurokawa in 1962, prepared the draft design for the new entrance hall. Hans van Heeswijk Architects then elaborated on this to create a solution in which the existing wing and the new structure form a new whole.

Says museum director Axel Ru¨ger: “The all-glass entrance hall features high- quality structural engineering and systems. There is a spacious, well-lit foyer with cloakrooms and a revamped museum shop. Improved access, better logistics and more space will allow us to give our visitors a much warmer welcome than before. Moreover, this arrangement better-suits the upgraded Museumplein – all its cultural institutions now have their entrances facing the square. The transparent building with its state-of-the-art glass structure enriches both the Van Gogh Museum and Museumplein.”

About the architects

The Van Gogh Museum is the fifth and most recent museum project in the varied portfolio of Amsterdam based Hans van Heeswijk Architects. The firm is especially well-known for its transformation of former nursing home Amstelhof into Museum Hermitage Amsterdam (2009), for which it was awarded with the Dutch Building Award a.o. In 2014 the Royal Picture Gallery project won the National Renovation Award, after reopening with a largely subterranean extension. Previously the firm, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, designed the Graphic Design Museum in Breda (2008) Museum of the Image, MOTI and a new museum for Dutch Modern Realism MORE opened in Gorssel.

State of the art glass construction

The new entrance building is the largest glass structure in the Netherlands in which glass fins (beams and mullions) and double glass units are elements of the building’s main structure. This is a major step forward in the technical innovation of transparent structures and for glass as a structural material. This building features the longest structural glass fin in the Netherlands measuring 12 meters. For the overall stability of the roof, the glass fins have been connected to the steel structure. Thus they work together as one structure.

Glass fac¸ade, roof and staircase

The bent glass fac¸ade is composed of cold bent double laminated insulated glass units. This means the rectangular glass panels have been shaped on-site during installation. The total area is approximately 650 sqm. The fac¸ade has 20 glass fins which are all unique, the longest being 9.4m. The glass roof with a total area of approximately 600 sqm has its main geometry as a shell under an angle of 16,5 degrees. There are 30 glass roof fins, all unique in length and with an optimized height to accentuate the shape of the curved roof. The glass staircase is supported by a triple laminated glass arch which transfers the highest loads from the stairs and also stabilizes the staircase. Because of this glass arch, the amount of steel is kept to a minimum and the staircase can be seen as a transparent piece. LED lighting has been integrated inside the glass stair steps.

Designer speak

According to the architects: “We ensured that the new entrance hall has become light and spacious with lots of glass. We want to capture the sunny atmosphere, which you see reflected in many paintings of Van Gogh. We developed a unique support structure for the glass roof, which you hardly notice. As you enter, you will wonder: How is that entire glass building supported? And what you experience is light, space, and overview. Clarity is extremely important, maybe the most important; you have to realize that a museum is a public building where every day thousands of visitors, many foreigners also, often come for the first time. You need to provide clarity. The visitors don’t want to miss anything; they need to understand immediately which way to go, how big the museum is and how long they will need to see it. When they feel at home and at ease they will stay longer and love to come back.”

Designer : Hans van Heeswijk Architects
Photography :Courtesy the architects

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