MVRDV is an architectural office based in Rotterdam, Netherlands headed by Winy Maas, a former OMA employee. They won the competition to design the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen of  Rotterdam’s Museumpark in the year 2014. The museum park with rooftop garden enjoys a worldwide reputation and is the pivot of the cultural scene of the city of Rotterdam. The doors of the world’s first fully accessible art storage have been thrown open for public viewing in the Fall, 2020. The program acquiring 15,000 sqm features public and private exhibition spaces, a publicly accessible restaurant and bar, a sculpture garden of the rooftop, logistics, and storage spaces for the artifacts.

Mirrored public art depot with rooftop garden in Rotterdam completed by MVRDV - Sheet1
©www.mvrdv.nl

Museums often display only six to seven percent of their whole collection while the rest of the collection is hidden away from public eyes. This particular museum’s extensive art collection was rotting away in basements protected by mere wooden pellets. The municipality of Rotterdam considers the construction of the art depot to be a crucial step in livening up the culture of Rotterdam by allowing the public to view its enormous heritage.

The depot will feature more than 151,000 artifacts that were hidden away in the basement of the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum and three off-site industrial warehouses. As an extension of the  Museumpark stretching between the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and Kunsthal art museum, this depot is designed to blend with the existing fabric and provide it a new boost. Its proposed location observed backlash from the public but the architects have worked proactively to smoother the transition by the innovative bowl-form and the reflective facade.

The bowl-shaped building with a rooftop garden is a unique intervention on the site as it not only has a smaller footprint but by the virtue of its facade, it activates the museum park and its precincts. This reflective exterior facade features 1664 unique mirror panels, exclusively fabricated to achieve smooth curvature. The ever-changing exterior evokes the feeling of living in a painting and reflects the skyline of Rotterdam. The 39.5 m high building expands as it goes upward, where its rooftop features 75 birch trees and an open-for-all restaurant offering spectacular views of the city. Thus the depot not only replaces the vegetation cover lost due to its construction but also enlarges it. A specially designed plumbing network keeps the soil of the rooftop adequately humid at all times for the birch trees to flourish. The architects worked closely with fabricators, structural engineers, and landscape firms to achieve this architectural feat and create a coherent, seamless experience for the users.

On the whole, the building is energy neutral due to a combination of solar panels, LED lights, insulation, and geothermal exchange. The building’s basement also features rainwater harvesting for its water needs.

The design of the art depot is democratic as it allows the user to not only view the collection but also get an insight into the curatorial and archival process of a museum. Here, they can observe the whole process of conservation, packaging, and transportation of artworks. The artifacts are classified according to the temperature and humidity required rather than the era or period. Therefore, the depot is divided into five sections according to climate considerations.

©www.mvrdv.nl

The atrium of the building has five crisscrossing staircases reminiscent of the etchings of Giovanni Piranesi, a national treasure of the Netherlands. This primary public route leads the viewer through three floors, each providing a different experience of the curatorial process of the museum. 13 glass display vitrines suspended in the atrium will feature multiple artworks. The artwork in the form of videos will be screened in the projection room but the photographs and prints will be stored in enclosed spaces, only accessible on request. The rest of the artworks will be displayed in four restoration studios. The displays will be ever-changing as the storage racks will be movable and thus will add to the novelty of the experience.

The building has been completed. A silver opening was hosted in the last week of September for the public to view the architecture of the buildings. It has been closed for the transportation of the artifacts and will finally open in Fall, 2021 after the process has been completed.

Built on a budget of ANG 55 million, the building breaks away with the tradition of concealment often practiced in museums. It relies on a semi-curated experience where visitors can explore the artworks with or without a guide. It is the first building of its kind as it offers its users a rare glimpse into the inner workings of an art collection.

The architecture of the building is groundbreaking in the manner it activates the neighborhood and deals with the loss of the ground cover. It is still to be seen how the users and critics all over the world will respond to this endeavor.

Author

Pragya Shukla, a young architect, is currently practicing in city of Lucknow. Her interests include reading, hanging out with dogs and cruising the city for a good cup of tea. She aspires to write extensively on socio-cultural aspects of architecture and have a practice based on reasearch and social advocacy.

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