Museum Voorlinden has an intelligent canopy which controls lighting

The perimeter white metal colonnade confirms the modernest building has connections to classicism. Photo Pietro Savorelli

WASSENAAR – Just north of The Hague, there is an opulent estate which hosts gardens, architecture and the largest private art collection in the Netherlands. In this estate, is a recently-completed museum for the Caldic Collection. The owner, Joop van Caldenborgh, has been amassing contemporary art from around the world for 50 years and will be displaying selected pieces in this new building. Dutch architecture firm Kraaijvanger Architects, Arup's Amsterdam-based office and Arup's Lighting Designer from the London office collaborated closely with the client on the project to produce a building that presents and protects the art it hosts.

Natural light is spread through the ceiling membrane to evenly cover Ellsworth Kelly's paintings on display (photo: Ronald Tilleman).

Classically modern in design, the building is like a monumental version of Mies’ Barcelona Pavilion, with a few functional and scale differences. Entering the site and passing an existing nineteenth century building you come across a horizontal form in the landscape. The pathway to the entrance curves around the back elevation, displaying the perimeter metal colonnade – confirming the building’s connections to classicism. The wide procession allows guests time to appreciate a garden by landscape designer Piet Oudolf, who was also responsible for the High Line garden in New York.

Light reflects off Roni Horn's glass sculptures (photo: Antoine van Kaam).

The large canopy, that floats above the gallery spaces, is the main design feature which affects the internal environment. Andrew Sedgwick, a lighting designer from Arup London, mentioned the client’s initial doubts about a naturally lit museum: ‘We recommended that the museum team and the architect should visit some of the great modern art museums (Menil Collection in Texas, Beyeler in Basel, Art Institute of Chicago) – when they came back from the tour, daylight was definitely in the project.’ The metal canopy has 24 percent of its surface punctured with tubes diagonally-sliced. The large number of cylinders control the internal lighting. The engineer explained the process: ‘The design went through many options – we tested these using scale models and full size prototypes. Joop van Caldenborgh was always very interested and hands-on with the design process.’ The perforated canopy sits 1.5 m above a pitched roof made of glass to let light through to a membrane ceiling that diffuses and spreads it evenly so not to affect the artwork inside. When the sun isn’t out or there are after-hours visits, high intensity LED lights are detailed into the glass roof mullions which direct light upwards to reflect against the white underside of the canopy and continue the feeling of natural light flooding into the space.

Joop van Caldenborgh tests lighting quality of a prototype by the egineers (photo: Arup Group).

Inside, the building is organised into three different zones: collection presentations, temporary exhibitions and permanently installed works. The organisation and scale of the building gives the art breathing space, with the main gallery spaces at 5.2 m internal height. The project transcends its horizontal plane by elevating visitors above Richard Sera’s sculpture and sinking them below the ground to step inside an illusionary swimming pool by Leandro Erlich. The supplementary spaces include a library, shop and a conservation workshop to tend to the art when needed.

Richard Sera's corten installation 'Open Ended' occupies the space dimensionally stipulated to the architect (photo: Ronald Tilleman).

The minimal design allows a focus on art; achieved with material selection, unadorned details and an absence of any typical fittings and fixtures. Emergency signs are hidden, which seems counterintuitive; however, they are cleverly detailed behind a very thin layer of plasterboard only lighting up in an actual emergency making the wall glow showing visitors the way out. The ventilation grilles are disguised in the floor and ceiling as well as other items, such as humidity sensors which are positioned in the walls. There is a high attention to detail in making the technical and aesthetic elements of this design work. The resulting display of art at Museum Voorlinden is uninterrupted due to the meticulous considerations of the various parties of the project team.

Museum Voorlinden opens to the public on 11 September and can be found at Buurtweg 90, 2244 AG Wassenaar, the Netherlands.


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