Former chapel converted into ultramodern museum entrance 


In 2014, the entrance to the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, a museum for modern art near Rotterdam the Netherlands, was given a makeover. The new entrance was designed by architects from MVRDV, a world-famous architectural firm based in Rotterdam and Shanghai, established by Nathalie de Vries, Jacob Rijs and Winny Maas. MVRDV is renowned for providing solutions to contemporary architectural and urban issues. The Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, which is housed in a historical building, had its central neoclassical chapel converted into an entrance, shop and café area.  The transformation of the former chapel – built in 1787 by Italian architect Carlo Giovanni Francesco Giudici (1746-1819), known in the Netherlands as Jan Giudici - has given the previously neglected space a new purpose. 
The transformation adds a distinctive element to the building: a red shelving unit that contains all the new programmes whilst treating the historic structure respectfully. The new museum quarter is a real gem for the city of Schiedam, a city best known for its jenever, its historic city centre lined with canals, and for having the tallest windmills in the world.The new entrance area to the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam has been given a more contemporary feel, with a stylish café counter, cloakroom, museum shop, reception desk, event area and various spaces to display artworks and other products that are for sale.      
MVRDV Director Nathalie de Vries looks back on the conversion of the museum's entrance area with a sense of satisfaction. The innovative entrance project, partly initiated by Diana Wind, former director of the Schiedam museum, underwent a real metamorphosis. Nathalie de Vries enthuses, "First of all, the museum was refurbished between 2003 and 2006, whereby it was completely renovated.  At that time, the decision was made to locate the entrance underground. Several years later, in 2012, that decision was reconsidered and the decision was made to locate the entrance on the ground floor, since the underground entrance was difficult to access. This was due, on the one hand, to its location underground, and on the other hand, because the stairs which led downstairs were difficult to find. It was then that MVRDV was called upon, together with the museum and the municipality of Schiedam, to carry out this conversion project."        
"In 2012, together with the project team, we decided to house the entrance in the old chapel; a central location in the former guesthouse on the ground floor. At that time, the chapel was only being used on an occasional basis. Thanks to its central location, you now go straight into the chapel, where the new entrance has been located since 2014. The chapel was built by Jan Giudici as a spiritual centre for a guesthouse for the poor, the elderly and the sick, and featured a sober, greyish interior. It still had pews in it, as well as a pulpit. However, it had stood empty for the last few years, having left its function as a chapel and a guesthouse for the sick and the poor far behind. But if you walked through the museum, you always had to walk through the chapel in order to go to the other areas. So that was when we came up with the idea of turning the chapel into the new entrance."        
"Cardinal red, meandering wall cabinets: fitting for a contemporary museum."
During previous renovation work, the main entrance was relocated to the basement, which meant that the stairs leading to the reception area were difficult to find. The centrepiece of the museum, the neoclassical Giuci chapel, lay neglected and lacked good acoustic quality. The new MVRDV design unites all programmes in a series of large, red bookshelves. The bright red colour was chosen to act as a warm element, creating a clear juxtaposition between old and new and paying respect to the former sacral function of the space. Nathalie de Vries clarifies, "We now have a sort of interconnected cabinet wall, consisting of MDF shelves, where all sorts of objects can be displayed. You could say that they're large, red wall units, a meandering system. We went for red; I call it cardinal red. We chose this colour because it is appealing and striking; it's very fitting for a museum of contemporary art. A red colour that also gives off warmth, and interacts wonderfully with the classical features of the chapel. And the columns have a slight hint of orange red in them, and some grey; they are marble painted and it all fits together very nicely one way or another."               
View of the chapel in the museum prior to renovation. 

An open, warm and functional entrance
With a clear and monumental gesture, the shelving units combine many functions whilst simultaneously keeping the space as open and usable as possible. The design is respectful to the chapel, which is grandiose and austere in equal measure, whilst adding qualities the space lacked and providing new functions. 

As the chapel is a listed monument, the transformation could not alter the existing structure. The shelves respectfully meander around the historical elements of the building, such as the windows, the columns and the organ, so as to frame them without conflicting with their traditional value. The close juxtaposition between the shelves and the historical elements also reconciles the perfectly level new additions with the curved Baroque structure of the original building. Perforations in the backs of the shelves prevent humidity problems and ensure better acoustics. The upper shelves play an acoustic role, whilst others serve to highlight products, thanks to in-built LED fittings. Due to their lightweight construction, the shelving units can be removed at any time without leaving a trace in the monument.         
MVRDV Director Nathalie de Vries looks back on the conversion of the entrance to the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam (the Netherlands) with satisfaction. ©  Barbra Verbij. 
New times, changing perceptions 
Nathalie de Vries expains: "I think that perceptions about museum entrances have changed over the years. Lots of museums have renovated their entrances in the last few years. It's important to have a good entrance with a welcoming feel, where people feel comfortable. With a museum shop, where you can study the catalogues at your leisure, books, items to browse through, and somewhere to enjoy a cup of coffee. Now the entrance area is on the ground floor, from there you can also see the square outside, which has been assigned a sort of patio function. It's now much more welcoming for visitors.
During the previous reconstruction, new stairwells were added; this time it is the turn of the entrance. The chapel was a complex space, of course; we didn't want to lose that. It was about being able to use the chapel more effectively. There were still pews in it; all the men used to sit on the left and the women on the right, all neatly separated from each other. I think that the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, with its new, progressive entrance area, has become even more of a gem for the city of Schiedam."                      
"One of the most prestigious museums in the Netherlands."
In the field of post-1945 Dutch visual art, the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, estabished in 1899, is a leading museum. It presents itself as a museum for modern and contemporary Dutch visual art. The large collection of artworks from the Cobra movement is a great example of this.The museum is located in Schiedam's historical town centre. The municipal museum for modern art owns a fine collection of works by artists such as Karel Appel, Lucebert, Constant and Corneille. Over the past fifteen years, the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam has added over 3000 works of art to its collection of modern and contemporary visual art through purchases, gifts, extended loans and reconstructions. More than 1400 objects were donated from the Altena Boswinkel Collection, considerably expanding the Stedelijk Museum's collection. The exhibition "The ABC of the Collection" is currently being held in the museum (from 27 February until 22 May 2016). The video below gives an impression of the works of art that you can expect to find at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam:          

For further information please contact: pr@mvrdv.com or visit the website: www.mvrdv.nl.

Lighting: Viabizzuno
Structure: ABT
Shelf construction: Coors Interieurbouw
Photography: Daria Scagliola, Stijn Brakee
Credits for this project:
Design team of MVRDV: Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries with Fokke Moerel, Arjen Ketting, Taylor
Cornelson and Zeying Song.