Erik Schilp (r) and Valentijn Byvanck (l) present Blueprint to Jan Marijnissen.
This blog was once started to document the (digital) development of a museum of national history in the Netherlands. As most readers will know, that museum never happened. What most readers – acquainted with our very visible projects such as xwashier and the National Vending Machine – might not know is that a large part of the work done by our curators has never been made public. Until now.
Yesterday in a packed Felix Meritis in Amsterdam the publication Blueprintwas presented. The book shows in detail our plans for the design and contents of a museum of national history for the Netherlands. It contains sketches of exhibitions, descriptions of displays and interactives and even ideas for the architecture of the physical building. It is the outcome of years of work by some of the most talented people I’ve ever met and beautifully designed by one of my favourite designers in the Netherlands.
N.B. I should have posted this post when I first wrote it. By now Alain de Botton’s opinion about museums is all over the place, and way better written (that is: by him) so you’d better read his columns on the Huffington Post or the Museums Association website. Sorry!
It’s been a while since we reflected on the way Lady Gaga or Richard Branson would make your museum top the charts. Recently a book came out by the great thinker and museum babes lover Alain de Botton which provides us with another nice angle on the outsider’s view on museums: secularism.
Religion for Atheists by De Botton is a guidebook to religion’s uses in a secular life. For topics such as community, education and forgiveness it looks at the good religions have to offer so we can enrich our secular existence. It’s a beautiful book, one of the most enlightening works I’ve read in a long while. You get a good sense of the book’s contents and energy from De Botton’s powerful TED talk embedded below.
The presentation also gives some insight in this post’s topic: how Alain de Botton would run a museum. “Our museum of art have become our new churches.” he writes. But they aren’t perfect, “While exposing us to objects of genuine importance, they nevertheless seem incapable of adequately linking these to the needs of our souls.”
His museum would be a meeting place for strangers, where all sorts of people are encouraged to learn about each other and talk about important topics. Such a museum would battle one of our secular world’s greatest fears: loneliness. Visiting a museum would be like visiting an agape feast. Read the rest of this entry »
TED Global was way more than stunning talks. In fact, maybe the best thing was the unique blend of inspirational people I met. One of them, artist Candy Chang, makes public installations I’m sure many of you will appreciate.
Her business card says Candy likes to make cities more comfortable for people. Many of her projects close the gap between the public and the often almost intangible stuff that surrounds them. Her work connects people and asks for their contribution.
Candy’s a TED Senior Fellow which means there’s hundreds of thousands of people out there who think she rocks. And one: me. Here’re just three of her projects:
What to do with abandoned buildings? There’re hundreds of them in every city (especially once you start looking for them). For one specific building, the Polaris Building in Fairbanks, people were asked just that question. Plus, they were asked to tell their stories about the building. There’s also a website attached that asks for contributions in a refreshingly simple way. The number of contributions is overwhelming and I’m sure this will influence the future of the building.
Yesterday we presented the book Sketches for a National History Museum. However, flipping through the book and talking with the young architects involved, I realise it could also be called “Sketches for a Museum in the 21st century”. Three young European architecture firms came up with three different possibilities for future museum architecture. Here’s how they envision the architecture of the museum of the future.
An enormous hall
An extremely spacious central hall makes me think immediately of Tate Modern. If you think that is cool architecture, however, 51N4E’s proposal might be your dream come true. Their design “Hall of History” consists of a ten-storeys-high wall with exposition spaces, overlooking an enormous hall where flexible expositions of all sizes can be organised. From the “wall” a visitor can look out at what happens in the “hall”, and vice versa.
I love how this design makes it possible to tell larger stories. Imagine the wall being a timeline of art history. From the hall you can get a sense of what influenced who etc. whereas in the spaces in the wall you can see individual art works from a certain period.
In a couple of days we’ll present a book with sketches for future museums. The book “Sketches for a National Museum of History” explores possibilities for museum architecture. Kenneth Frampton and Hans Ibelings wrote essays, researchers at the Berlage Institute made design sketches, and three young European architecture firms, 51N4E, Baukuh and Monadnock, submitted plans to encourage thinking about a new museum architecture. I had a chance to look at the book and I must say it’s inspiring and the designs are daring and different from what you’d expect.
Yesterday we launched a small website to encourage thinking about good museum architecture. It focuses on six themes – connect, show, sense, open, move and site – and hopefully will spark some new ideas about good museum architecture. You’re free to add your ideas (don’t let the Dutch scare you, it’s a bilingual website!).
So, what is good museum architecture?
That, I’m afraid, is a question without an answer. Or, with many answers. The book explores how architecture can deal with certain characteristics of museums. For instance, how architecture influences the presentation of objects (“show”). The two examples below are from the book and show how a church and a museum built on top of a chapel show their objects. I like them both, but believe they’re very different in their architectonic approach.
Pastor van Ars Church (design Aldo van Eyck, photo m.by) and Kolumba (design Peter Zumthor, photo seier+seier).