The NAI just before the opening in 1993. The pool around the building is yet to be constructed. Photograph: Jannes Linders.
The new architecture institute was supposed to be opened to the public by early 1992. That deadline was exceeded by some eighteen months. The delay was caused in large part by financial troubles. The ambitions of architect Jo Coenen and the NAI exceeded the available budget. As a result, the design had to be drastically retrenched.
The National Government, which was to finance the building, had earmarked some 22.5 million guilders for it. A forecast from the Government Buildings Agency indicated that although Coenen's design could be realized for this amount, the calculations had been based on minimum prices. This caused a dilemma for the client from the very beginning of the project: the building housing an architectural institute should, by its very nature, have prestige and appeal, yet it was important to be as frugal as possible at the same time. Opting for Coenen's design was tantamount to opting for a building that was, in fact, too expensive.
> Austere materials in the main building's entrance hall. Photograph: Maarten Laupman.
Sponsoring and subsidies
Every avenue was explored to try and raise additional funding: product sponsoring, the glass outer walls of the entrance and foyer were subsidized, the Ministry and Rotterdam Municipal Council stepped in and constructions for claiming VAT were conceived. All this did not help to make up the deficit. This meant that numerous aspects of Coenen's original design had to be modified. "I had to design the building while I was negotiating. I had to make the working drawings in my head. At that point in time, the building no longer existed as such, and for every new cutback I had to predict whether the desired character could be maintained." (Coenen in an interview met Tom Maas in 'Architectuur/Bouwen' (1993) 11)
> The glass walls of the entrance hall and foyer were designed by Mick Eekhout. The glass plates are glued together using silicone rubber and linked in the corners using small, four-legged 'spiders'. Photograph: Petra van der Ree.
Coenen in an interview with Bernard Hulsman in NRC newspaper: "It was a fierce battle. Budgetary limitations were enormous. We scrimped and saved for this building. According to all architects [invited to enter the multiple commission], the original budget was too tight to build the museum. Initially, the Ministry contributed a million guilders, but it still wasn't enough. At a later stage, the NAI board succeeded in finding all kinds of sponsors, and I personally persuaded subcontractors and suppliers to deliver products at half price. Moreover, we had the special bricks baked for less money. Nevertheless, I still had to make decisions during construction that I knew were not right. Although we did get some money later to put into the final touches, it was not sufficient to undo the initial concessions." (NRC, 29-10-1993)
The most important concession concerned the exterior of the elongated archives wing, where the original brick wall was replaced by corrugated iron cladding. The wall on the park side was painted gray, as that fit in best with the background of the glass main building. The other side was painted red and had a horizontal profile in order to emphasize the length of the building. The pergola roof of the main building could not be constructed in accordance with the original design, either. The steel frame cladding, intended as an awning, was lost in the cutbacks.
> The collection wing as seen from Rochussenstraat, is clad with red corrugated iron. Photograph: Maarten Laupman.
> The pergola, a steel structure on the main building. Photograph: NAI.
The library and study hall were combined into a single room with an atrium, which yielded considerable savings on construction costs. Initially desiged as a terrace, the exhibition room was changed into a large open space with a flexible layout. It was also decided to consider the shell to be the completed work - hardly any finishing work has been done to the interior. Electrical wires, sprinkler systems, ventilation ducts and cable ducts lay bare against the concrete and have become part of the concept.
> Austere use of materials: concrete walls and columns in the exhibition building. Photograph: Ger van der Vlugt.
Coenen in Algemeen Dagblad newspaper: "What springs to mind when you think 'concrete'? A parking garage. I wanted to arrange concrete, glass and steel so that the building would not become too cheap, or rather, would not slip into disrepair. In Brutalism, architects show everything they build with. Le Corbusier and others arranged naked materials in such a way that associations with a parking garage are avoided. I think we succeeded in that, too." (AD 9-10-1993). And in an interview with De Architect: "As soon as it became clear that we didn't have the money for a more attractive finish, I re-arranged the building's design. Like Koen van Velsen, I tried to make cheap materials look good by using them in unexpected ways. (De Architect 24 (1993) 12)
Construction activities include the construction of an underground parking garage and the
redevelopment of the park itself. This means that, just fifteen years
after it was built, the park will be changed drastically. The design by
Yves Brunier and Rem Koolhaas had already met with criticism when it
was first completed, and that has only increased over the years, as the
park rapidly lost its luster.
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The Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI) is more than a museum. It
is an archive, museum, library and cultural podium all in one. The NAI
holds important archives and collections of Dutch architects from after
1800 and makes them accessible to the public. The NAI is part of The
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