Museum De Fundatie by
Bierman Henket architecten

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Dutch Design Week 2013: Dutch firm Bierman Henket architecten has added an extension shaped like a rugby ball on top of a neo-classical museum in the city of Zwolle (+ slideshow).

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

Bierman Henket architecten created the extension for The Museum De Fundatie, which is housed in a former courthouse designed in 1838 that now contains a collection of international art, sculpture and curiosities.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

Located on the edge of a market square that links the medieval city centre to an area of nineteenth-century parkland, a shortage of space around the museum and the technical complexity of extending underground led the architects to propose placing the extension on top of the existing building.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

The architects explained that their design "couples the classical, static building with the fluid dynamics of a contemporary extension in a vertical direction."

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

Eight steel columns pierce the original building and support the two-storey extension, making it structurally independent.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

The extension's exterior is covered in 55,000 three-dimensional tiles produced by Royal Tichelaar Makkum with a blue and white glaze that helps the structure match the colour of the sky.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

The curving, open spaces inside the extension contrast with the typical arrangement of adjoining exhibition halls found in the old building.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

A large window on the northern side fills the interior with daylight and provides visitors with a panoramic view of the city.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

The project won the Spatial Exterior category at the Dutch Design Awards last week, with the selection committee commenting that: "the project generates a huge impact in the city" and "has an incredible presence". The top prize at the awards went to fashion designer Iris van Herpen's collection featuring 3D-printed garments.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

The architects sent us this project description:


Museum De Fundatie, Zwolle
Extension: 2010-2013

Museum De Fundatie in Zwolle, situated on the border between the mediaeval city centre and the open 19th century parkland with its canals, has been extended with a spectacular volume on the roof of the former Palace of Justice.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

The courthouse on Blijmarkt was designed by the architect Eduard Louis de Coninck in 1938 in the neo-classical style. De Coninck intended this style of architecture to symbolise the unity in the legislation of the new kingdom. The building has a double symmetry with a monumental entrance and a central entrance hall extending over two floors.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

On the city side the free-standing building is slightly recessed in relation to the unbroken, mediaeval façade of Blijmarkt. Together with the classical façade structure of a tympanum on Corinthian columns, this gives the building a solitary character.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

The building is also free-standing on the canal side, in the green zone of Potgietersingel. The canals were laid out as a public park in the English landscape style in the second half of the 19th century, following the demolition of the city walls.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

Due to its location the building became a link between two distinct worlds: one an inward-orientated, mediaeval, fortified city with a compact and static character and the other a 19th century park with an outward-orientated, dynamic character.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

In 1977 the building ceased to function as a Palace of Justice and it was converted into offices for the Rijksplanologische Dienst, the government planning department. A mezzanine was constructed in the two high court rooms. Since 2005, following internal renovation by architect Gunnar Daan, the building has been the home of Museum De Fundatie.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

The museum has an extraordinary collection including works by Rembrandt, Saenredam, Turner, Monet, Rodin, Van Gogh, Mondrian and Van der Leck. In addition, the museum organises modest, but much discussed exhibitions. Under Ralph Keuning’s directorship these temporary exhibitions became so successful that extension of the museum became unavoidable. Despite the inherent problems of extending the palace in the historical city centre, the museum resisted the temptation to abandon this national monument and opted to extend it.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

Bierman Henket architecten designed the extension of the former courthouse in 2010. Architect Hubert-Jan Henket succeeded in persuading the client not to add an extension next to the existing building: this would have destroyed its solitary and symmetrical character. An underground extension proved spatially too complicated. Instead Henket designed an extension with an autonomous volume on top of the monumental building.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

In the same way that the Palace of Justice links two worlds in a horizontal direction, Henket couples the classical, static building with the fluid dynamics of a contemporary extension in a vertical direction.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten

The superstructure, just like the substructure, is symmetrical in two directions, but the shape rather resembles a rugby ball. Together, the two totally-different volumes form a new urban entity. There are also two contrasting interpretations in the interior: the classical succession of rectangular museum halls below versus the fluid, open spaces in the elliptical volume above.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten_third floor plan
Ground floor plan- click for larger image

Right from the outset, both the Rijksdienst voor Cultureel Erfgoed, the department responsible for the preservation of monuments and historical buildings, and local conservation societies were enthusiastic about the radical concept for the expansion. Under the motto preservation through development the customary debates and public inquiry procedures were considerably shortened. Planning permission was granted in record time.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten_ground floor plan
First floor plan - click for larger image

Straight through the existing building, eight steel columns stand on eight individual foundations. The columns support the new extension – with two exhibition floors that total 1,000 m2. So, structurally and architecturally, the extension is independent of the old building.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten_first floor plan
Second floor plan- click for larger image

The extension – also called the Art Cloud – is clad with 55,000 three-dimensional ceramic elements produced by Koninklijke Tichelaar in Makkum. Together, the mixed blue-and-white glazed tiles measuring 20x20 cm and 10x10 cm, form a subtle surface which, depending on the weather, merges into the heavens. On the northern side daylight floods into the two, new exhibition floors through a large, glazed pane in the tiled superstructure. Inside, visitors have a panoramic view of the city.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten_second floor plan
Third floor plan- click for larger image

With the extension, the original central entrance hall has been carried through as an atrium where the two museological worlds converge. A glass lift in the atrium conveys visitors to the various floors. The stairways are located on the outer part of the floors. In the old building they are stately and straight, in the new development they are flowingly curved.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten_cross section
Sections - click for larger image

A glass passageway runs between the existing building and the extension − where new and old meet. On the one side visitors look into the atrium and on the other they have a view of the city and the underside of the tiled extension.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten_detailed section
Detailed section - click for larger image

With its aim of presenting contemporary and old art in one building – Museum De Fundatie now has a new, truly-unique identity.

Museum de Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten
Fourth Floor plan- click for larger image

Design: 2010
Completion: 2013
Client: Museum De Fundatie / Gemeente Zwolle
Architect: Bierman Henket architecten
Consultants: ABT adviesbureau voor bouwtechniek bv (structural engineer); Huisman & van Muijen (services engineer); Climatic Design Consult (building physics); Bremen Bouwadviseurs (cost consultant)
Contractor: BAM oost.

  • dezy

    Someone is a fan of the independence day movie!

  • kick

    Looks awful!

  • mb4design

    Hopefully, it is just one of those spaces that’s impossible to convey in photos. There are many elements to like, but the sum comes up just a little short. Art does not need an antiseptic space to be appreciated. The rigid formed glass elevator creates a third element relating neither to the existing or the addition. Why not a more sculptural oval? I still want to like this.

  • Breadcrumbtrail

    Not a fan of the form, but the cladding is beautiful.

  • pipo

    It’s great if you see it in real life and also a very good addition to the Zwolle region in terms of cultural attractions.

  • mhf

    Totally in agreement with mb4design. I want to like this and from certain angles the facade seems like it is really fascinating, but overall the project leaves me with a sense of tastelessness. Crazy form + crazy skin + glass elevator = a bunch of relatively normal looking galleries? That is a recipe without taste in my opinion. I feel like another scheme with the same budget could reach an even higher level.

  • Rafel

    From the outside it attracts attention, which is very good if you want visitors. The colour of the bubble is very nice. Zwolle is a nice quiet city with people moving mainly by bicycle.

  • Lex

    Love the shape, but it hurts to see the form of the windows – no synergy at all.

  • El Jiji

    “Right from the outset, both the Rijksdienst voor Cultureel Erfgoed, the department responsible for the preservation of monuments and historical
    buildings, and local conservation societies were enthusiastic about the radical concept for the expansion.” Quite odd?

  • buzzkill

    An angry tumor bulging from the forehead of a handsome woman. Sad.

  • Brinolo

    It seems to be from that banal school of thought promoted by Daniel Libeskind. “If you don’t know how to create a respectful addition to an historic building, them mutilate and destroy it with an egotistical and tasteless addition.” It’s a sad reflection on contemporary architects that this dumbed down type of design is promoted in the media.

  • cabel

    I really hope this is a prank! I bet the architects are laughing themselves silly… “They bought all that nonsense about coupling the classical, static building with the fluid dynamics of a contemporary extension in a vertical direction.”

    In what universe does a mindless formalism like this get passed off as intelligent or thoughtful narrative? It might be a red flag if your project can be described as a ‘rugby ball’.

    Enric Miralles once pointed out that there are serious problems with buildings acting as demagogues.