During the golden age of sailing ships (roughly between 1584 and 1702), when Dutch ships dominated the trade routes of the world, the Netherlands became the first capitalist power in the west. The growing bourgeoisie class demanded a vast production of portraits and paintings, which enhanced trade, promoted the sciences and especially stimulated the arts. Few countries have such great quality artistic productions such as the Netherlands from that time.
Rijksmuseum: The Latest Architecture and News
Four Dutch cultural institutions are collaborating to build a new repository for their vast national collections. The new Netherlands Collection Centre (CC NL) will be built in Amersfoort, east of The Hague, and will replace the current depositories belonging to Paleis Het Loo, the Dutch Open Air Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, combining these collections in a central hub. With an area of 30,000 square meters, the building will house 675,000 objects, and is scheduled for completion in 2020.
Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, which was recently renovated and restored by Cruz y Ortiz, have launched The Big Draw campaign, encouraging visitors to ditch the camera and pick up a pad and pencil. Under the tagline 'You See More When You Draw', the Dutch national museum want to "help visitors discover and appreciate the beauty of art, architecture and history through drawing" as a counter to what they describe as an often "passive and superficial experience" when seen through the lens of a smartphone.
Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, which was comprehensively restored and reimagined by Spanish practice Cruz y Ortiz over the course of a decade, has been named as the 2015 European Museum of the Year (EMYA) by the European Museum Forum. Lauded by the jury as "a great museum, at the height of its powers, providing a rich experience to the public, and a socially aware outreach programme for visitors of all ages," its success has also been in the museum's "ambition to 'reach every child in the Netherlands by the age of twelve'" - an aspiration which has been praised as "notable, impressive and achievable." The coveted award has previously gone to Zaha Hadid Architects' Riverside Museum in Glasgow in 2013.
Waterlicht (or 'water light') is a new light installation which has temporarily transformed Amsterdam's Museumplein into a "dream landscape" expressing both the power, and the poetry, of water. The shifting shapes and liquid movement of the artwork also have a very real purpose: like a virtual flood, the level of the lights show how high the water could submerge Holland and parts of The Netherlands without constant human intervention. The installation highlights how innovation in engineering, something which is embedded "within the DNA of the Dutch landscape" of polders and dikes, has been "almost forgotten." The nation's vulnerability against the power of the oceans is pertinently expressed in this experiential urban intervention.
Cruz y Ortis, who famously spent ten years redesigning and renovating Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, have recently completed a comprehensive restoration of the adjacent Philips Wing. As an addition to the extensive exhibition spaces of the Dutch national museum, which was brought to completion in 2013, the Philips Wing will be dedicated to showcasing high-profile exhibitions from its own collection and on loan from international and national collections. Cruz y Ortiz's work has consisted of reorienting the entrance, accommodating diverse new functions and preparing the exhibition rooms for the temporary expositions starting next month. Several twentieth century interventions have been set back and corrected, whilst other areas have been appropriated for a new destination.
See drawings and photographs of the new wing, including a description from the architects, after the break.
Wim Pijbes, director of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, has declared in an open letter to the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad that the Dutch capital is "dirty, filthy, and too full." Complaining primarily about the culture of short-stay accommodation, segways, scooters and canal cruisers in the historic heart of the city, he argues that "the charm and spirited character has long since faded." Amsterdam, an apparent magnet for those who enjoy an "anything-goes atmosphere," faces an uphill battle in order to remold a dwindling reputation.
The Rijksmuseum, which reopened last year after a decade of restoration and remodelling, is a museum dedicated to “the Dutchness of Dutchness.” Pierre Cuypers, the building's original architect, began designing this neogothic cathedral to Dutch art in 1876; it opened in 1885 and has stood guard over Amsterdam's Museumplein ever since.
Over the centuries, the building suffered a series of poorly executed 'improvements': intricately frescoed walls and ceilings were whitewashed; precious mosaics broken; decorative surfaces plastered over; and false, parasitic ceilings hung from the walls. Speaking in his office overlooking the Rijksmuseum’s monumental south west façade, Director of Collections Taco Dibbits noted how the most appalling damage was incurred during the mid-20th century: “everything had been done to hide the original building […but] Cruz y Ortiz [who won the competition to redesign the Rijks in 2003] embraced the existing architecture by going back to the original volumes of the spaces as much as possible.”
For Seville-based Cruz y Ortiz, choosing what to retain and what to restore, what to remodel and what to ignore were, at times, difficult to balance. Cruz y Ortiz found their answer in the mantra: 'Continue with Cuypers'. They threw the original elements of the building into relief but did not act as aesthetes for the 'ruin'. In contrast to David Chipperfield and Julian Harrap's restoration of Berlin's Neues Museum, for instance, Cruz y Ortiz rigorously implemented a clean visual approach that favoured clarity over confusion. What is original, what is restored, and what is new mingle together in a melting pot of solid, understated architectural elements. Sometimes this approach contradicted Cuyper's original intentions; however, more often than not it complements them in a contemporary way.