Coming into light

Amsterdam is a historic city filled with museums that honour centuries of art, architecture that dates back decades and a population that ensures that what was enjoyed by their ancestors will be enjoyed by their children.

The world was reminded of these particular city traits with the recent opening of the famous Rijksmuseum, which had finally completed its 10 year renovation process.

After winning a design competition in 1876, Pierre Cuypers went on to design the original Rijksmuseum, which would later open in 1885. The museum was a landmark of Amsterdam, as it was considered a sort of gate to the city.

Those who travelled to the infamous Dutch hotspot would have to enter via the cathedral enjoying Cuypers’ original design, which combined gothic and renaissance elements and suited a very 19th century European appeal.

In the 1950s and 60s, the museum was completely whitewashed. The walls and ceilings were painted over in white hiding many of the beautiful wall illustrations and the tiles were removed and replaced with wooden flooring.

Though these initial renovations suited the radically contemporary design trends of its time, they disguised the original spirit of the museum. In the late 1990s, the government and city decided it was time for yet another renovation; however, this time, the renovation would serve as a restoration of sorts, bringing back Cuypers’ vision.

Leading architecture firm Cruz y Ortiz from Seville, Spain took on the new challenge and were responsible for the overall renovation. The firm worked closely with Hoogevest Architecten from The Hague, and French interior architect Jean Michel Wilmotte.

As for the lighting, the Rijksmuseum experimented with LED lighting, becoming the largest museum in the world to be completely lit by LEDs. Arup designed the lighting structures under the guidance of Rogier van der Heide, now chief design officer at Philips Lighting, while Beers Nielsen and Philips Lighting completed the lighting fixtures’ design and lengthy application.

The Dutch Government Buildings Agency managed the entire process, using tax money to foot the entire project’s bill, giving ownership of the museum to the people of the city.

Van der Heide explains: “The whole project was done with state money, meaning that it’s completely owned by everyone in this city…The team had to enhance the design to enable the city’s cyclists, who are now free to bike through the museum’s entrance gate, rather than around it. This is a symbol for how much the building is a part of Amsterdam.”

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