Thursday, April 25, 2013



How interesting is that in the design of the museum dedicated to the great and troubled Vincent Van Gogh, perhaps the most important Dutch painter together with Rembrandt, have converged two masters of architecture: Gerrit Rietveld, an architectural exponent Dutch movement De Stijl or Neoplasticism and the renown Japanese Kisho Kurokawa, one of the founders of the Metabolism Movement and subsequently a theoretician of the architectural movement called symbiosis. Other designers have joined them in the landscaping of external spaces.  As a result,  the Museumplein has become the largest Dutch museum complex.

This video, with the song Vincent by Don Mclean is a tribute to Van Gogh, and shows many more works by the painter to the limited space in this post I may.

RIETVELD and Neoplasticism

Neoplasticism or De Stijl was a Dutch artistic movement developed between 1917 and 1931 and promoted by the artist, critic and theorist Theo Van Doesburg. De Stijl was the name of an academic publication in which Van Doesburg discussed the ideas of this movement.

Piet Mondrian: Composition in red, yellow, blue, black and gray.

Born in painting, Neo was based on the abstraction of all forms of orthogonal lines and planes, and all the primary colors, white and black. While Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) is the best known artist of this movement, Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964) it was its most renown architect.

Rietveld began as a furniture designer, and in 1917 created his famous "Red and Blue Chair", which is a three-dimensional expression of the concepts of  the Neoplasticism.

Red and Blue Chair and Chair Zigzag two Rietveld creations

His first and most famous work of architecture, the Schröder house, is a three-dimensional composition based on these pictorial ideas. It has been declared a UNESCO heritage site, and we will discuss about it in more depth in our next post.

Neoplasticism had a big influence on the Bauhaus Movement and subsequently on the development of the modern movement in architecture.


Rietveld began designing the Van Gogh Museum from 1963 to 1964. After the architect's death in 1964, the project was completed by his disciples J. Van Dillen and J. van Tricht. The construction of this first building was concluded in 1973. Additionally, in 1999 Martien van Goor added an offices wing that allows better communication between the different blocks in the complex.

Main facade from the street Paulus Potterstraat.
Rear facade to the Museumplein. Note the contemporary addition.

The volumetric composition consists of three overlapping boxes at different heights in a staggered sequence, and organized around a central courtyard. In this space, lit from above, the staircase becomes the central element.

Photos courtesy of Jan Tito

The entrance fromy Paulus Potterstraat Street, is stressed by a horizontal slab covering a lobby; this sort of "floating" elements is very common in Rietveld designs.


Due to a grant from the Japan Foundation, in 1999  an extension to the Rietveld's original museum was carried out. The project was commissioned ti the Japanese master Kisho Kurokawa.

Kurokawa, who shares with Rielveld a love for geometric shapes, proposed a building based on curved lines, based on the outline of an ellipse. Kurokawa champions the concept of symbiosis, a dialogue between two different entities, each with its own personality but seeking a common goal. His proposal is thus a symbiosis between East and West, between the straight and the curved lines, between order and chaos.

Showing humility and respect for his predecessor, Kurokawa buried 3/4 of the building, connecting it with the old museum though an underground passage, in order to minimize its visual impact on the surroundings. However, it is its peculiar titanium curved roof which first catches the visitor's eye .

The oval volume coated in granite is cut diagonally, defining a space that is occupied by a plaza that is eventually filled with water, becoming an abstraction of a Japanese garden.

In the straight wall of the museum stands a metallic, tilted box  that emphasizes Kurokawa's predilection for embedding pure geometric forms on flat surfaces, as he did on the National Art Center in Tokyo, which we had reviewed earlier in this moleskine.

Inside, the light is filtered by the curved roof and it is distributed though the fiberglass walls and wooden floors.

Photo courtesy of MorBCN
Photo courtesy of temp13

Two spaces are clearly legible: the double-height curve area and suspended cube, which contains the collection of Van Gogh Japanese art of Ukiyo-e, such as works by  Kitagawa Utamaro and Katsushita Hokusai .

The plum blossom and The Courtesan (Hiroshige)


Perhaps the question we all ask while approach the museum through the spacious forecourt of the Museumplein is ... Where is the entrance to the museum? Originally, as mentioned earlier, the building used to face a street, and on its back there was another street, the Concertgebouw (Concert Hall), that joined with the Rijksmuseum, the largest art museum in the Netherlands.

The street in front of the Concertgebouwen 1902

Between 1996 to 1999 an intensive renovation of this area was carried out , including underground parking, a wide expanse of lawn, shops, cafes, a pool-skating rink, the relocation of green areas and a memorial to the dead women in the Holocaust. The design was conceived by the remarkable Swedish landscape architect Sven-Ingvar Andersson, who integrated these cultural functions within a public space.

Today this is one of the busiest areas for both residents and visitors, and often holds outdoor exhibitions.

Currently they are carrying out renovations in museums, but in a few years it is expected to become one of the main cultural centers of Europe.


It is always noteworthy  to remember that Van Gogh greatly influenced modern art in Holland, including the De Stijl Movement, and that Vincent in turn was influenced by Japanese art, so it was Kurokawa. The world is a handkerchief.

- OTHER WORKS OF Kisho Kurokawa


With Eric, Techi  and little Rafael


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