Spectacular 'art depot' offers transparency

The Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, by MVRDV, is an accessible art depot, offering a glimpse behind the scenes while making all works accessible to the public 

Designed by Winy Maas, MVRDV

From the architects:

Setting the scene

The world-famous art collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has over a period of 170 years grown to include more than 151,000 artefacts: 63,000 paintings, photographs, films, pre-industrial design and design objects, contemporary art installations and sculptures, as well as 88,000 prints and drawings.

For various reasons the museum is no longer safe or appropriate to house the massive collection and an external storage facility was required.

The museum’s preference – with the financial support of Rotterdam City Council and the philanthropic foundation Stichting De Verre Bergen – was to construct a publicly accessible depot adjacent to the museum building in the centre of Rotterdam.

Unlike a closed storage facility on an industrial estate, this means that the entire collection will be accessible to the public under one roof – a world first.

The response – Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen

The world’s first publicly accessible art depot will open its doors in November 2021 at the Museumpark in Rotterdam.

Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen offers a glimpse behind the scenes of the museum world and makes the whole art collection publicly accessible.

Museums around the world usually display just six to ten percent of their collections; the remaining 90-plus percent is hidden in storage.

However Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is breaking with this tradition of concealment and will make all these invisible artefacts visible.

In a unique and iconic reflective building, specially designed by MVRDV to meet the requirements of this unprecedented building type, all 151,000 artefacts will be afforded a worthy place in the heart of the city.

Visitors are immersed in the world behind the scenes of a museum and experience what maintaining and caring for an invaluable art collection actually entails.

The 39.5m-high mirrored building with its rooftop woodland and panoramic vista is a new icon for Rotterdam.

The depot’s  design

MVRDV’s ambition was to design a highly inviting building where visitors feel welcome and at the same time leave the gateway to the Museumpark intact.

The choice fell on an ovoid form so that the depot is equally inviting on all sides – the building has no back.

The depot’s cinched shape is due to the relatively small footprint.

The building therefore bulges outwards as it rises and has an overhang of 10m in order to accommodate the whole programme: depots, restoration studios, hospitality, projection and presentation spaces.

The reflective building, comprising 6,609m² of glass subdivided into 1664 panels, ensures that the structure is visually integrated into its surroundings.

Depending on the weather the depot looks different every day.

The eye-catcher in MVRDV’s design is the atrium with its intersecting stairs and the rooftop ‘woodland’ at an elevation of almost 35m.

The birch trees, grasses and pines on the roof help to retain water, foster biodiversity and reduce the heat stress in the city.

The trees for this project were specially cultivated at a nursery for three years: their root systems are interlocked so that they can withstand stormy weather, even at such an exposed height.

Accessible to the public

Visitors to Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen can browse among more than 151,000 artefacts, independently or with a guide – you can join a group for free throughout the day.

The public can also observe conservation and restoration processes, transportation and packaging of works of art.

Surrounded by art, visitors are led upwards through the glass stairwell via five large zigzag stairways that are reminiscent of work by Giovanni Piranesi.

The works of art are stored as efficiently as possible, in a manner similar to that in a closed depot.

Artefacts stand wrapped, hanging from a rack, displayed in a cabinet or exhibited in one of the 13 display cases that are suspended in the atrium.

Prints, drawings and photographs will be stored in enclosed spaces, but visitors can submit requests to view works from these collections.

The film and video collection can be viewed in special projection rooms.

The depot’s commercial function

Alongside the depot’s role as the museum’s engine room, it will also serve a commercial function.

Part of the building can be rented as storage space for the art of private collectors, corporate collections or other museums, which can in turn open up these spaces for the public.

The sixth floor, accessible via an express lift, is situated at a height of about 35m and offers breathtaking vistas across the city of Rotterdam.

The rooftop garden includes a pavilion with an events space that is available for rent and a daytime/evening restaur

Environmentally friendly

The art will be exhibited according to climatic requirements, rather than artistic movement or era.

Each storage space is provided with a specific climate that is maintained by a climate control system.

There are five different climate zones, suited to works of art produced with different materials: metal, plastic, organic/inorganic, black-and-white and colour photography.

This method of storing the art collection calls for specific climatic conditions in which the air is not overly cold, warm, humid or dry.

The regulation of this climate requires precision and consumes lots of energy.

The building has been designed to provide optimal conditions for the art while being as energy-efficient as possible.

Where possible, sustainable materials are employed: the building has led lighting, a geothermal heat exchanger, solar panels, an innovative system for climate control, and rainwater storage that supplies water for the rooftop garden and toilet facilities.

Credit list

Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Designed by: Winy Maas, MVRDV

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: Ossip van Duivenbode; Iris van den Broek

14 Nov, 2021

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