Museum Arnhem, a cultural landmark in the Netherlands, houses a collection of modern, contemporary, and applied art, with a particular emphasis on the work of female artists. The project for the renovation of the museum’s public spaces – the foyer, a café, a museum shop, and an event space on the floor above – was entrusted to Studio Modijefsky as an integral part of the renovation of the entire museum complex. The collections have been moved to the new wings of the museum, making the public areas of this monumental building attractions in themselves. The aesthetics of these spaces have been fully overhauled by the Dutch studio, which, by creating a new language composed of elements combined from past and present, has both unified the different areas while also making each one unique. The revamp has given the building a new heart and, in effect, a new work of art.
Even at the entrance, it’s possible to pick up on the museum’s atmosphere of magical realism. Its simple design combined with neutral tones underscores the existing building while transporting visitors to another dimension. Two chandeliers, which have the true starring role in the foyer, encourage you to look upwards, while a large mirror on one wall reflects and inverts the arched shape of the entrance, inviting visitors to look at reality from a different perspective.
But the focal point of the foyer is the large open space beneath the monumental dome, where the café and shop occupy a single space. Studio Modijefsky has designed the foyer as a space with no barriers, in which you recognize different functions by virtue of their unique identities. The use of materials and colors breaks up the height and light of this hexagonal double-height space, putting it on a more human scale. The walls are painted a dark burgundy and decorated with tall mirrors that, positioned between the equally tall glass doors, amplify the space horizontally and towards the green spaces outside. The furniture is placed around the original columns, defining each area.
The café, Café Pierre, reflects Modijefsky’s hallmark style. Inspired by magic realism, it’s an intriguing combination of elements, materials, and shapes. To counterbalance the monumentalism of the dome, the furnishings are dark and heavy. Tables of different heights and colors are combined with custom-designed bench seating. The roughness and neutrality of the wood contrasts with the colored eco-leather of the seats, the marble blocks, and the lilac backdrop behind the counter. The use of green grows slowly more intense as you approach the walls to either side, where a visual continuity is established with the sculpture garden visible through the windows.
The shop occupies one side of the space and consists of a series of display units arranged in an irregular fashion to create a dynamic, inviting feel. Here the materials are lighter and more elegant. The furniture features metal frames, glass, and mirrored backdrops. The colors are light, with pastel pinks providing a neutral background to the products on display.
The starring role of the project is taken by the custom-designed chandelier that fills the entire height of the dome. The design comprises several curved lamps that mirror the shape of the dome above. These elements, in different shades of white and hung at staggered heights, create an intertwining of lines and lights that’s constantly changing. The chandelier also illuminates the large open space used for events on the floor above. Finally, on the same floor, an activity room is intended to inspire visitor creativity. The furniture in this room is designed to be easily moved about, making the space highly adaptable.
Through a composition of textures and materials, heights and depths, Studio Modijefsky has created a space in which architecture becomes art and that will be a central part of the visitor experience.
Location: Arnhem, The Netherlands
Architect: Studio Modijefsky
Completion: May 2022
Client: Museum Arnhem
Design: Studio Modijefsky; Esther Stam, Natalia Nikolopoulou, Ivana Stella, Agnese Pellino, Aurelia de Chevigny Design project team: architect: Benthem Crouwel Architects
Graphic identity: Thonik
Landscape design: Karres & Brands
Photography by Maarten Willemstein, courtesy of Studio Modijefsky and Museum Arnhem