Van Gogh Museum-Main Structure

Address: Van de Veldestraat 3 | AMSTERDAM | Netherlands | Visit Website
Latitude/Longitude: 52.3587, 4.88026

The Van Gogh Museum consists of two buildings: the main structure (I) designed by Gerrit Rietveld and opened in 1973, and the Exhibition Wing (II) by Kisho Kurokawa completed in 1999. The architecture of the museum has a complex history: apart from these two architects, several others have contributed to finishing, rebuilding or remodelling parts of both buildings. After Rietveld died in 1964, the museum building was completed by his partners J. van Dillen and J. van Tricht. The interior was altered many times over the years and in 1998-99 it was renovated by Martien van Goor of Greiner Van Goor Huijten Architects BV. At that time the layout of the building was readjusted to correspond more closely to the original design, and the entrance area was made more spacious and convenient.

The same architects were also responsible for the new office wing on the southwest side of the building and for the passage connecting the old and the new buildings, which became known later as the ‘Node’.

Georges Berne of the French company L’Observatoire was brought in to design the lighting for the Exhibition Wing and the Main Building, and Eveline Merkx of Merkx+Girod Architects designed the interior of the museum shop.

Through the creative contributions of all these designers, the museum complex has become a true Gesamtkunstwerk, in which the different parts contrast with and complement each other, and in which Kurosawa’s elliptical building enters into an absorbing dialogue with Rietveld’s functionalist design. Originally the Van Gogh Museum just consisted of the main building on the Paulus Potterstraat, and housed both the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. At present it is used only for displaying the permanent collection. It was designed in 1963-64 by Gerrit Rietveld and completed after his death by his partners. The museum opened on 2 June 1973.

Rietveld was a leading member of De Stijl, a group of progressive artists and architects which was active in the 1920s and published its own magazine. In line with his Modernist approach, Rietveld favoured geometrical forms and light, open spaces. The most striking feature is the staircase in the central hall, where daylight enters through a high atrium and floods into the museum galleries.

In 1998-99 the museum building was renovated by Greiner Van Goor Huijten Architects BV and a new office wing was added.

The Exhibition Wing
The Exhibition Wing was designed by Kisho Kurokawa, a Japanese architect with an international reputation. He is best known for his original designs for several Japanese museums and for Kuala Lumpur airport. His work is characterised by geometrical forms, such as cones, ellipses and squares, and a symbiosis between Eastern and Western principles in philosophy and architecture. For the new wing of the Van Gogh Museum he created a sober design that accords perfectly with the existing building. Rational (Western) geometry forms a symbiosis with Eastern asymmetry.

The addition of a new wing specially for exhibitions was made possible by a gift from The Japan Foundation. The funds for this donation came from the Yasuda Fire & Marine Insurance Company, Ltd. of Tokyo.

⇒ Architecture Guide to AMSTERDAM