MVRDV converts a chapel into an entrance
for the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam


Dutch studio MVRDV has transformed a neoclassical chapel into the main entrance for a museum of modern art in Schiedam, the Netherlands, adding bright red shelves between the listed building's existing features (+ slideshow).

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV

The Stedelijk Museum Schiedam is housed in a former guesthouse for the elderly and sick, which was established between 1262 and 1272, and is housed in two wings on either side of the chapel containing MVRDV's intervention.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV

Following a renovation in 2006, the museum's entrance had been located in the basement where visitors found it difficult to locate the stairs leading to the reception area.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV

The transformation of the chapel – built in 1787 by Italian architect Jan Giudici – gives a new purpose to the neglected space and introduces several additional functions.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV

The red shelves that cover the lower walls and one full-height wall facing the entrance incorporate a reception desk, cloakroom facilities, a cafe counter and product displays for the museum shop.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV

"With one clear and monumental gesture, we have combined many functions whilst at the same time keeping the space as open and usable as possible," said MVRDV co-founder Nathalie de Vries.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV

In its original manifestation, the chapel's interior was painted in a muted palette of grey. The architects chose to inject some warmth by applying a contrasting bold red.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV

The chapel's status as a listed building meant that the design had to be developed around original features including an altar, organ, columns and windows.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV

All of the shelving and the panelling is made from MDF and can be removed completely to return the chapel to its original state.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV

A gap has been left around each of the existing elements to frame them and highlight the juxtaposition between old and new.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV

"The design is respectful towards the impressive and grandiose yet at the same time austere chapel, whilst adding qualities the space lacked, providing new functions," added De Vries.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV

Shelving high up the walls helps with the space's acoustics and LED lighting has been built into some of the units to highlight the products on display.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV

Photography is by Daria Scagliola and Stijn Brakkee.

Here's a project description from MVRDV:

Transformation Stedelijk Museum Schiedam: MVRDV wraps interior of historical chapel in red shelves

MVRDV completed its transformation of the entrance of Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. The museum for modern art, which is housed in a historical building transformed its central neoclassical chapel into an entrance, shop and café area. The transformation adds a visually clear element, a red shelf which contains all new program and treats the historic structure respectfully. The 500m2 transformation started last year and was recently finalised.

In 2006, the museum went through a renovation which relocated the main entrance in the basement, the stair leading to the reception area proved difficult to find. The centrepiece of the museum, the neoclassical Giudici chapel lay neglected and lacked good acoustic quality.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV
Concept diagram - click for larger image

The MVRDV design unites all the demanded programme in a series of large book shelves, they contain the reception desk, wardrobe, the museum store, the cafe counter and various presentation spaces for art and products for sale. The chapel was built in 1787 by Jan Giudici as spiritual centre for a guesthouse for the poor elderly and sick with a sober, greyish interior. The bright red colour was chosen to act as a warm element, making a clear juxtaposition between the old and new and to pay respect to the former sacral function of the space.

As the chapel is a listed monument the transformation could not change the existing structure, the shelf is constructed in MDF and respectfully meanders around the historical elements such as windows, columns and the organ - framing them at the same time. The small distance between the shelf and the elements also mediates between the perfectly level new addition and the oblique historical structure. Perforations in the backs of the shelves avoid problems with humidity. The higher shelves play an acoustic role whilst others highlight products by using built in LED armatures.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV
Concept steps - click for larger image

Due to its light construction the shelf can be removed at any time without leaving a trace in the monument.

MVRDV realised the transformation together with ABT structural engineers. Coors Interior has realised the new shelves. The large chandelier in the space and lighting fixtures are designed by Viabizzuno.

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam by MVRDV
Section - click for larger image

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam is a municipal museum for modern art and owns a fine collection of works by artists such as Karel Appel, Lucebert, Constant and Corneille. The museum is located in Schiedam’s historical town centre, a quintessentially Dutch town with canals, churches and many wind mills of gin distilleries. The transformation was made possible with the support of Bankgiro Lottery, Foundation Schiedam Vlaardingen, De Groot Foundation and the Municipality of Schiedam.

  • Simon Gerssen

    The cut-out around the pulpit makes it look chaotic. It doesn’t reinforce each element.

  • Concerned Citizen

    The wall with the pulpit is a total failure. The EMPTY bookshelves encroach on the pulpit’s boundaries and makes it appear to be a thoughtless ransacking of the space.

  • Taylor

    Beautiful. A very nice injection of drama and humour into the space.

  • Mesha Hall

    I think it is beautiful. Theatrical and all Alice In Wonderland-ish! It brings so much warmth to the space with the red shelving. Inspirational!