The Stedelijk Museum is internationally known and renowned for its commendable collection of contemporary art. Although her collection is equivalent with the international top museums in this field, the building was outdated. The position on the Museumplein (Museum square) in Amsterdam, where the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Concertgebouw also are situated, created all options to be back at the top of the museums with a renovated and expanded building.
The existing building of the Stedelijk Museum created in 1895 by the municipal architect A.W. Weismann, is celebrated for its majestic staircase, grand rooms and natural lighting. These strong points have been retained in the design by Benthem Crouwel Architects along with the colour white, introduced throughout the museum by former museum director Willem Sandberg (1945-1962). The new extension does not ask for more of the same, but to supplement by variety and by adding new opportunities for exhibitions. The old remains and forms unity with the new. Both in terms of exhibitions and routing, making compelling choices between old and new has been averted. The expansion is not a subordinate, or very different pavilion next to the existing building, but an integrated addition. The contrast of the new building versus the old building is obvious from the outside; inside the museum you hardly notice strolling from the new building into the old.
The former entrance was unsuitable as a public entrance – with all the associated functions – to be maintained. While maintaining the strengths of the existing building was not possible to have all new components and public functions, which create a museum of the 21st century, in the existing building. This restriction had the obvious ability of turn the orientation of the new museum toward the Museumplein. The Stedelijk Museum is the first museum with an actual entrance on the Museumplein. To make sure that the available space at the Museumplein would not be overbuild, but instead was appropriated as an entrance plaza to the south, the rotated orientation is optimally exploited. The new entrance seamlessly fits into the existing central access zone of the symmetrical building and is an extension. By partly lifting the added volume and sinking the rest underground, the existing building remains virtually untouched and fully visible.
In the new entrance all public functions, such as the entrance desks, knowledge center, museum shop and restaurant are located in a large open, transparent space where the plaza floor continues to the outside of the existing building. The square is part of the building as much as it is a part of the Museumplein. The wing-shaped, cantilevered roof over the square at height of the stone frames, reinforces the open transition from square to building and removes any doubts about the whereabouts of the entrance. The smooth white volume, also known as ‘the bathtub’, is made from fiber enforced composite. The typical shape of the building arose by pulling the exterior facade tight around the interior functions. The jutting roof was added as a functional protection against sun and rain. Against the backdrop of the old building, the roof with the volume underneath is the new powerful image of the Stedelijk Museum.
From the entrance, visitors can familiarize themselves with the different routes that are possible through the building. The routing can be controlled by the programming, but is not mandatory in one direction. Thus it is possible to walk directly into the old building to follow the various circuits. The monumental staircase remained and continues to have an important function in the routing. The new entrance hall also has the possibility to follow a route through the new halls. A broad stairway in a spacious loft offers views of the routing that leads to the lower exhibition rooms. Here, among other things under the square, a large exhibition hall of ± 1,100 m² is created.
From this lowest level in the building it is possible to move to a new exhibition hall in the floating volume level. Via two escalators in an enclosed yellow “tube”, straight through the new entrance hall, the two exhibition areas are connected. This way the visitor crosses the entrance area without leaving the exhibition route and without being distracted by the public functions: visitors remain in the museum atmosphere. The exhibition hall in the floating volume is directly connected to the hall of honor in the old building, which makes the routing circle complete. Due to the variety of types of space, a new museum comes into existence with a wealth of experiences and exhibition opportunities. The existing building will be – untouched – in full glory, but at the same time begin a new life, with the new orientation at the Museumplein, under one roof with the new building.