A path built of recycled cobblestones leads one past something that looks like a huge boulder, 13 metres high and without any visible entrance.
National Heritage Museum
Design Team: Mecanoo Architecten
Location: Arnhem, Netherlands
Status: Completion 2000
The National Heritage Museum is an open air museum, founded at the beginning of the twentieth century to preserve memories of rural culture and traditional crafts in Holland. In niches in the wooded countryside outside Arnhem, completely furnished farmhouses, shops and workshops from different parts of the country have been brought together. A visit is certainly educational, but today it has to be an attraction as well. To achieve this broader concept a new exhibition building was needed to display the splendid collection, making the museum less dependent on fair weather. With this in mind, Mecanoo has viewed its task as twofold – to provide practical facilities, while also appealing to the public’s imagination.
The landscape was taken as the starting point for the design. In this case this was more or less obvious because it offers possibilities for interventions and also because it is the foundation on which the history of Dutch housing has taken place. In addition, materials with a history have been employed. Cutting across the countryside is a wall, 143 metres long, made of old cobblestones and bricks with different bonds and joint methods. Through the museum gate in this wall one comes to a large airy hall with an outlook to the open air part of the museum. The hall floor undulates with the changing levels of the landscape. The exhibition galleries are located in the lowest floor level. From it a tunnel leads visitors to the interior of the boulder. This is the ‘HollandRama’, a rotating panoramic theatre where a multimedia show brings historic objects to life.
The entrance hall forms the central area of the museum and includes facilities such as toilets, the café and the museum shop. It functions as a link between indoors and outdoors and it also houses the knowledge centre and auditorium, both of which are in keeping with the current trend in museums. The layout of the changing exhibitions and the semi-permanent display of costumes and jewellery from the museum’s own collection also reflect current trends.