The transformation of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

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On April 13 2013, the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam reopened after a renovation process that had lasted more than a decade. The building, which dates from 1885, was designed by the architect Pierre J. H. Cuypers (1827-1921). Initiated as a royal museum the museum had been transformed into the Dutch National Museum. Originally the building was conceived as a collection of museums. It housed five different collections, with specific characteristics in construction, spatial lay-out and decoration, all embodied in one Gesamtkunstwerk. The specific features of the various parts of the museum however, had been long lost. The central passageway through the building, making it a gatehouse between the centre of Amsterdam and the district Amsterdam-Zuid, still remained in use. This passageway turned into one of the pivotal issues in the long lasting building process, that faced several problems. Already twenty years ago, in 1994, the Rijksmuseum commissioned a study of the possibility of closing this passageway under the building for biclycle trafic. In a press release the museum announced this as a means for the passageway to serve as an entrance area. A year later Hans Ruijssenaars (b. 1944) started developing a master plan for the Rijksmuseum. This comprehensive view was intented to find solutions to infrastructural problems, the sense of clutter and the shortage of space in and around the building. This article focuses on the evolution of the design for the new Rijksmuseum, in a complex and ambitious context involving a great many parties.