The Rijksmuseum’s New Outdoor Gallery

After more than ten years of work, the restored and revitalized Rijksmuseum, the Netherland’s national museum, reopened in April. Spanish architecture firm Cruz y Ortiz brought the 19th-century building into the 21-st century with a new entrance and Asian pavilion, restored galleries, and thousands of energy-efficient LED lights. While this $375 million-Euro effort rightly got a lot of attention in the architecture press, the thoughtful update to the 14,500-square-meter outdoor gallery by Dutch landscape architecture firm Copijn Tuin- en Landschapsarchitecten didn’t.

A new outdoor exhibition of sculptures by Henry Moore may help remedy that because the sculptures show that the updated landscape is just as sumptuous as the restored building.

Just as the architects modernized but honored the original building, Copijn seems to have done the same with architect Peter Cuypers’ original plans for the gardens from 1901. Copijn tells us that they did a contemporary refresh of Cuypers’ old Dutch garden style, with ponds, lawns, original classical sculptures, and “fragments of ancient buildings,” along with seasonal modern plantings.

While they honored much of Cuypers’ plans, they updated the outer rim of the garden to the point where that part no longer resembles the original from 1884. Now, a “protective bank of trees and peripheral planting will give the gardens an intimate and secluded atmosphere.” The central lawns have also been elevated to provide a landscaped plinth for the sculptures.

Scattered through the modernized gardens are relics from Holland’s past. There are historic structures, a history tour of the built environment in the Netherlands, with old city gates, iron fences, and garden benches. There are classical 18th-century garden sculptures, 19th-century bronzes and busts of Roman emperors.

Another interesting Modern artifact was added: architect Aldo van Eyck’s post-war playground equipment from Amsterdam Nieuw-West. In the 1950s, Amsterdam commissioned 700 models of these aluminum play sets for inner-city kids.

The museum and landscape architects found space for a 19th-century greenhouse where heirloom vegetables will be grown. It was set-up so as not to disturb the “monumental” Wingnut trees. A water maze was also created based on a design by Danish sculptor and installation artist Jeppe Hein.

The exhibition of twelve Henry Moore sculptures will be on view in the garden until the end of September.

Image credits: (1) Rijksmuseum Atrium. Photo credit: Pedro Pegenaute. Image courtesy of Rijksmuseum, (2-8) Rijksmuseum outdoor gallery / Image credits: Copijn Tuin- en Landschapsarchitecten

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