Architect Mels Crouwel on the intricacies of museum design
Museum de Pont, Tilburg
“In most art galleries, you have a sense of what to expect when you enter, since the halls are symmetrical and the route is predictable.
In contrast, at Museum de Pont, visitors enter the foyer and are faced with a softly-lit 60 metre corridor ahead of them, ending in a garden. What kind of rooms lead off this corridor is unclear. There is a sense of anticipation, a sense of excitement. What surprises lie in wait?
That was the emotion I hoped to elicit when I designed the corridor, making a completely new opening in an exterior wall to do so. Even when the museum renovates or changes exhibitions, the long corridor remains: it’s a vital element for us.
Converted from a former wool factory, we wanted the museum to retain its sense of history in contrast to the clean, white aesthetic of a modern art gallery. The steel and glass ceiling, though unusually low for a gallery, was restored and kept: now, the light that flows through it casts unusual moving shadows on the Anish Kapoor works through the day, bringing them to life in a unique way. And the exterior brick walls, bearing signs of their age, have become part of the new interior with an extension that includes a restaurant.
The decision-making process when renovating was long. Deciding on the height of the interior walls alone took us two years of experiments. Unlike bustling urban galleries, where you feel yourself hurried and distracted by the din of other visitors, the Museum de Pont has become a refuge for reflection and the purest appreciation of art.”
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