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The new Drents museum

February 2, 2013

20 minutes ride by train from Groningen (the northern Netherlands), is the small town of Assen. Recently they have built an addition to their beautiful historical and fine arts museum there. It is called the Drents Museum and I visited yesterday. There was so much to see, I’ll concentrate here just on the building, and talk about the exhibitions another time.

The old museum housed Dutch art from  1885-1935,as well as applied art and exhibitions featuring local history and collected  ceramics, textiles and porcelain. It has something of the flavour of the museums I love best in London like the Victoria & Albert Museum. the building is as much a work of art as what it holds. In the V&A sitting at the coffee shop, for instance, you can hardly stop feasting your eyes on the ceramic wall tiles and mosaics.

Here are a few pictures of the old building and it’s interior. You’ll notice that no new modern wing is visible to mar the historic appearance of the outside. How, then,  did they add the huge, spacious modern gallery spaces? You’ll see in a moment.

old museum building

Original museum building seen from the new garden

old section

old section

tiles in the hallways

tiles in the hallways

OK, here are some views of the inside of the new modern wing, designed by Erick van Egeraat.

I’m allergic to the White Cube Syndrome in modern museums, but even though there are some areas that threaten to succumb to that like the rest rooms, the main interior is exciting and welcoming.

And the new light, spacious, airy wing is all below ground level!

Look at the pictures above, where you see the skylights and vertical wooden beams in front of the windows, especially the close up with the partial moat outside the window. That is ground level. OK, here is how they did it.

The newly landscaped museum garden actually is a feature of the roof of the new wing.

In these pictures, I gradually moved closer to the skylight and eventually looked down into the gallery.

I can’t wait to see it in the spring when things are in bloom and filled out a bit. I love it.

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9 Responses to “The new Drents museum”


  1. A stunning museum! I love the modern and classic styles merged. Thank you for sharing.


  2. How very clever. This looks like a treat of a place to visit. I too love the V&A and paid a visited just last week to see the new furniture gallery. I go at least once a year. The old building at The Drents certainly has a feel of the V&A.

  3. decorartuk Says:

    That’s what you call clever architecture – this museum proves that modern can be integrated into space in such a way that it doesn’t obstruct the pretty old buildings and that it can also be very functional and not too “cold”. Really great idea.

    I wish more architects would try to avoid square monstrosities next to old buildings.

    P.S. Love the tiles – so much “heart” has been put into them.

    • Sarah Zoutewelle Says:

      Yes, it can so easily turn into a monstrosity as you say. Here is what happened to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam- just google images for ‘Stedelijk musem badkuip’ and you’ll see waht I mean. badkuip is Dutch for bathtub!!

      Yes I love the tiles too.

      • decorartuk Says:

        Just had a look at Amsterdam’s biggest bathtub – I couldn’t believe my eyes! I think I would call it an eyesore. How could anyone think that this building would go well with the surroundings!? What do the Dutch think to it?

        Well, maybe they should have at least left more space around it? (Now it looks as if some aliens landed and squeezed in between houses, in their very oldfashioned space ship – and then forgot to leave…)

        That’s what happened in Birmingham, where they built their biggest shopping center (Bullring) next to a church: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aerial_Bull_Ring_Birmingham.jpg (Bullring’s on the right) It’s modern, yet I think they kept respectful distance. Still lets hope no beautiful old houses had to be knocked down in order to build huge new ones.

      • Sarah Zoutewelle Says:

        I agree, the bathtub is an eyesore, I haven’t seen it in real life, but the pictures say enough!

        “aliens landed and squeezed in betwen the houses’, how wonderful, and ‘in their ‘very old fashioned space ship’ (giggling!)YES.

        Oh the pictures of what they did in Birmingham are equally terrible, but at least they left some breathing room around the church. Thnaks for sharing that.


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