Founded in 1912, the Netherlands Open Air Museum is picturesquely situated in the rolling forested landscape near Arnhem. The museum commissioned Mecanoo to design not only an entrance pavilion but also an indoor exhibition space, thereby making visits to the open-air museum more suited to all weather conditions.
Besides experiencing the historic buildings, rural culture and traditional Dutch crafts for which the museum is renowned, visitors can now enjoy temporary exhibitions in the new building and watch shows at the HollandRama, a new rotating panorama theatre.
The major challenge was to create an environment that captures the visitor’s imagination while providing the required facilities. The building is designed as the central square of the museum, linking inside and outside.
The landscape, which played an important role in the history of settlement in the Netherlands, forms the starting point for the design. The choice of materials also reflects this theme. A path of old clinkers leads past a mysterious 13-metre-high boulder-like structure without any apparent openings. The museum entrance gate is set in a 143-metre-long wall that cuts through the landscape, its striking surface constructed from stones and old bricks laid in different masonry bonds.
Inside, visitors enter a spacious, light entrance foyer that houses the café and museum shop, with stepped split-levels that adapt to the rolling landscape. A long glass facade interspersed with staggered timber frames overlooks the open-air museum. On the lowest level, where the exhibition halls are located, a tunnel leads to the HollandRama panorama theatre inside the boulder.