Welcome to the Bathtub: Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum Reopens with Addition by Benthem Crouwel

Queen Beatrix herself was on hand this weekend (in a festive red ensemble, no less) to reopen the Stedelijk Museum, which has undergone an extensive renovation and gained a new wing designed by Mels Crouwel of Benthem Crouwel Architects. The Amsterdam institution’s original building dates to 1895, and virtually all of its program spaces have now been converted to galleries for the first comprehensive display of the Stedelijk’s permanent collection of modern and contemporary art and design (think Aalto to Zwart). The 98,400-square-foot new wing, which some locals have dubbed “the bathtub,” not only provides a sleek home for temporary exhibitions (first up: a group show of young artists working in the Netherlands) but also reorients the entire museum to face Amsterdam’s Museumplein, where its floating white facade rub-a-dubs with the neighboring Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Concertgebouw.

“The Stedelijk Museum of Willem Sandberg, the director who put the museum on the international map, was our starting point,” explains Crouwel. “He stripped the interior of decoration and had it painted white, creating a neutral background for art.” Crouwel’s formula for the exterior was simple: keep the 19th-century architecture, add 21st-century technology, and paint everything Sandberg white. The new building’s milky exterior, made of 271 panels of Twaron aramid fibers and Tenax carbon fibers attached to a steel structure, makes the Stedelijk the largest composite building in the world. “With the completion of Mels Crouwel’s bold yet brilliantly functional building, we are effectively adding a major new work to our exceptional collection of Dutch modern design,” said director Ann Goldstein in a statement issued by the museum.

Here’s more from Crouwel on the renovation: