The Van Abbemuseum, established in 1936, is a special museum. In 2003 the existing listed monument designed by architect A.J. Kropholler (old building) was thoroughly renovated and integrated within architect Abel Cahen’s design (new building). It’s distinctive architectural design, alongside its collection and exhibitions programme make the Van Abbemuseum a unique place for modern and contemporary art.
The Van Abbemuseum lies on the River Dommel amongst a surprisingly natural setting. H+N+S landscape architects envisioned a substantial widening of the river, adding fish ladders and a nature-friendly river bank. This has established an ‘inner lake’ in the embrace of the new building that is overlooked by the Museum Café and its open-air terrace.
The Museum Café is not only accessible via the main entrance, but can also be reached via the footbridge constructed to the rear of the museum in 2006. This work of art, a small, vivid-pink house with the illuminated words ‘Echt iets voor u’ – ‘Just your kind of thing’ – on the roof is a design by the Eindhoven-based artist and architect John Körmeling. The shortest covered bridge in the world is an eye-catcher by day or by night.
The façade of the new building is clad with natural stone, namely grey Flammet slate from Lapland. This grey shell, which changes in hue from silver-grey to dark anthracite depending on the weather conditions, accentuates the angular, sleek design of the new building, forming an expressive contrast with the light and surprisingly transparent spaces within. The front garden is a design by landscape architect Piet Oudolf.
The heart of the new building is a 27-metre-high tower with inward-sloping walls, onto which every floor opens out. Sweeping flights of stairs and a musical lift form striking vertical traverses. Each floor has its own internal structure, sometimes high and monumental, sometimes modest or surprising in form. The museum initially seems to be a labyrinth, but you will soon discover that it provides space for intimate presentations as well as large-scale exhibitions and monumental installations.
The Belgian designer Maarten van Severen created the interiors for a range of public facilities Van Severen realised the educational spaces, the museum shop and the auditorium, which is also available for use by third parties for functions and all equipped with digital equipement. His highly original design for the library extends over three floors around an open well.
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