News — 30 Oct 2011
During a short period at the end of the 19th century three great cultural buildings arose around today's Museumplein, then an empty meadow: the Rijksmuseum (1885), the Concertgebouw (1888) and the Stedelijk Museum (1895). A.W. Weissman, Amsterdam's City Architect, designed the Stedelijk. With its gable end and small tower the exterior, built in red brick and with stone dressings, his design refers to 16th century Dutch Renaissance architecture.
Over the course of the years the interior has been regularly modernised and adapted for the demands of the time. Under the leadership of directors David Roëll and Willem Sandberg the gallery walls were covered in lighter material. In 1938 Sandberg literally had all memories of the past in the hall erased with whitewash.
After 1945 Sandberg continued his modernisation. In the 1950s the auditorium with a coffee room (called the Appel Bar) next to it, the restaurant, the library and reading room, the museum shop and the print cabinet all came into being.
There were not only renovations, but also extensions. In 1954 the New Wing, as conceived by Sandberg, arose along the Van Baerlestraat. Openness was his motto, and with the replacement of the heavy, closed front door with a glass entry, the last traces of 19th century exclusivity disappeared.
In the period 1945-54, the total floor area was nearly doubled by the insertion of intermediate stories. About three- quarters of the new space was intended for offices, restoration and photographic studios (in 2002 about 200 staff are at work there) and depot space. The rest expanded the exhibition space; in 1945 that was 4550 m2, in 1954 6090 m2. The number of visitors also doubled in that period, from 100,000 to 200,000 per year. Presently the figure is about 400,000.
Over a century after it opened, Weissman's building still appears to fulfil requirements surprisingly well with regard to, for instance, the dimensions of the galleries and the splendid natural lighting. Inadequate maintenance and the absence of climate control however mean that it had become sadly outdated.
With the ambitious exhibition programme there is insufficient space to keep the most important works from the collection, which has grown enormously over a century, on permanent display. The depots and work spaces have also become much too small.
In recent years, the old building has been renovated and all later additions removed. The Stedelijk is now using a new central storage facility in Amsterdam West.