This past weekend, more than 40,000 people visited and admired the sunflower labyrinth that was created to celebrate the opening of the new entrance building of the Van Gogh Museum on Museumplein in Amsterdam. High up from a photo deck, they looked over the 125,000 sunflowers that made up this magnificent labyrinth and enjoyed singer-songwriters who performed in the labyrinth. All the sunflowers were given away for free after 4 p.m. on Sunday and in no time the Museumplein and the whole of Amsterdam turned yellow.
Says Axel Rüger, director of the Van Gogh Museum: “The opening weekend of our new entrance building was a great success. Even though the weather let us down, very many people came to enjoy the sunflower labyrinth those two days. We are extremely pleased with people’s enthusiastic reactions to our new entrance that is now very accessible and welcoming to our visitors. This spacious, transparent entrance building, with its state-of-the-art glass constructions. is a major asset for the Van Gogh Museum and the Museumplein.”
The labyrinth contains three Van Gogh inspiration rooms where visitors can enjoy performances by singer-songwriters, among other things.
Say Rüger, “The building went very smoothly and was completed entirely within the tight 18-month schedule and on budget. The glass entrance hall features advanced glass constructions, installations and modern floors and walls. There is a new spacious and light reception area with cloakrooms, and a completely redesigned museum shop with over 500 new products. The new entrance, improved logistics and this larger reception area enable us to welcome more visitors even more hospitably. Our museum is now also better oriented on the refurbished Museumplein, on which all the surrounding cultural institutions have now established their entrances.”
By enclosing the empty “sunken pond” on its Museumplein side, the Van Gogh Museum has gained 800 square metres of floor space. This new entrance hall offers numerous benefits. The neighbouring Stedelijk Museum and Rijksmuseum have recently relocated their main entrances to face Museumplein, and now the Van Gogh Museum is following suit.
The new glass structure is also positioned conveniently between the original museum building designed by Gerrit Rietveld and the more recent temporary exhibitions wing, providing better access to and between them. The additional 800 square metres will improve visitor flows and create more room to welcome and assist them. The museum is now better equipped to cope with the expected future rise in visitor numbers. And the entrance hall has a flexible layout, allowing it to host gatherings and receptions of various sizes.
Outside the museum, on Willem Sandbergplein – which separates it from the Stedelijk Museum – the City of Amsterdam has created a waiting area where visitors who have not purchased their tickets in advance can buy them at one of the new ticket desks.
High-quality glass structure with an open, transparent design
The open and – literally – transparent entrance hall has been built using the very latest glass construction techniques and contrasts wonderfully with the solid outer wall of the temporary exhibitions wing. Its frontage consists of 650 square metres of cold bent glass, with 30 so-called “roof fins” – also in glass and up to 12 metres in length – and 20 glass columns up to 9.4 metres high, all mounted on a load-bearing structure containing 65 tonnes of steel.
Visitors descend from the street-level entrance to the sunken foyer by a magnificent glass staircase, an illuminated escalator or a glazed panoramic lift. In the foyer are a cloakroom with space for 2200 coats and 1700 bags, an array of 1450 audio tours and a brand new museum shop. This is selling some 500 exclusive new products, created in collaboration with leading local and international luxury brands like Jaeger-LeCoultre, Gassan Diamonds, SMAAK and Pommery, or by Dutch designers inspired by Van Gogh and his work. They include Hester van Eeghen, Tord Boontje, Edward van Vliet and Droog Design.
The draft design for the new entrance hall was prepared by Kisho Kurokawa Architect and Associates, the firm founded by the late Kisho Kurokawa, designer of the temporary exhibitions wing opened in 1999. Hans van Heeswijk Architecten then elaborated on this to create a solution in which the existing wing and the new structure form a surprising new whole.
Paid for thanks to many generous donors, the Van Gogh Museum has largely financed this project itself. The total cost of €20 million has been met from the museum’s own funds, together with contributions from the BankGiro Loterij, the foundation Stichting Vincent van Gogh, Van Lanschot Bankiers, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance, the Tokyo Shimbun, the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the City of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam-Zuid city district, Yanmar Europe, the Triton Collection Foundation, the John and Marine van Vlissingen Foundation, Heineken, TAKII Seed, the Drs C. van Zadelhoff Fonds, Ernst A. Nijkerk, Dümmen Orange and other companies, charitable funds, foundations and private donors.
“We are proud that the project is fully paid-for,” says Axel Rüger, “and grateful that the Van Gogh Museum and its new entrance hall have had such an appeal for our financial supporters.”
Construction of the new entrance hall was overseen by the Central Government Real Estate Agency (Rijksvastgoedbedrijf, RVB), the owner of the museum building.