Inner city plan for Rotterdam.
The new architecture institute was to be sited in the "Park Triangle", a green urban wedge that connects Rotterdam city center with the river Meuse. Together with the "Center Diamond" and "Water City", the area, intended for culture and recreation, was a key element of the "Inner City Plan for Rotterdam" (1985-1990), the final phase of the city's post-war reconstruction.
The Park Triangle is transected by the Westzeedijk, with the Park at the Euromast to its South and Museumpark to the North. The location earmarked for the Architecture Institute was diagonally across from the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. It was a triangular area officially called Hobokenplein square, but the cluttered layout of parking spaces and vegetation made it unrecognizable as a square. Because of its location alongside Rochussenstraat, the architecture institute was to form the northernmost border of Museumpark.
Recovering lost ground
The first plans for a concentration of museums around the Boijmans van Beuningen were drawn up as early as 1974. Due to a lack of funding, however, this Public Park for Culture had been put on the backburner, but it was brought to the foreground again by the Urban Development Department headed by director Riek Bakker within the context of the Inner City Plan. Although many individual art and culture initiatives had been launched, their scope was limited due to a lack of government funding. After years of social priorities such as urban renewal, the time had come to recover lost ground in the form of investments and spatial interventions.
> Museumpark, 1974. Photograph: Municipal Archive Rotterdam Collection.
Rem Koolhaas was commissioned to design the Kunsthal (1987-1992) on the south end of Museumpark, adjoining the Westzeedijk. It was projected next to the former Villa Dijkzigt, which had housed the Natuurmuseum since 1987. The development of Museumpark, based on a draft by the Urban Development Department and designed by Rem Koolhaas and French landscape architect Yves Brunier, was started in 1989. In 1991, H.J. Henket designed a new pavilion for Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. Construction of the NAI was to become the final act of the project.
> Model of the Kunsthal, based on a design by Rem Koolhaas. NAI Collection, OMAR Archives.
Perfectly straight promenade
A key motif in the preliminary studies of the Urban Development Department was a wide, perfectly straight promenade transecting the park from north to south. The NAI was to be a precise continuation of this axis. Ultimately, however, that hard and fast rule was abandoned, as the NAI did not want to impose such a limitation for the multiple commission. After all, such commissions are intended to generate surprising results.
> Design for Museumpark, by OMA. NAI Collection, OMAR Archives.
Artificial urban park
Koolhaas and Brunier designed four different zones ('rooms') along the length of the park, transected by a path that is reminiscent of the longitudinal axis. Adjacent to the Kunsthal was a paved area designed to look like a plaza. In front of that was a romantic area with trees, brightly colored flower beds, water features, serpentine paths and a curved bridge with sparkling stones. The third area was a black and barren asphalted area for events, which could be brightly lit. The last area, opposite the NAI pool, was to be an orchard of geometrically planted apple trees with stems painted white on a base of shells. This area was to be optically magnified by a stainless steel mirror wall on the side. "An explicitly artificial urban park [..], not a representation of nature but a cheerful image of trained vegetation and sweet clichés of the unspoilt." (Ruud Brouwers in 'Het Nederlands Architectuurinstituut')
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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Four Rotterdam museums – Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the Netherlands Architecture Institute, the Netherlands Photo Museum and Kunsthal Rotterdam – are bringing the rich culture of Brazil to the city on the Maas. Brazil Contemporary – Contemporary art, architecture, visual culture and design presents every facet of Brazilian culture in four exhibitions, a publication, and a programme of activities. Brazil Contemporary will run from 30 May to 23 August 2009.
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The Netherlands Architecture Institute, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and the Nederlands fotomuseum have joined forces to stage a penetrating interdisciplinary overview of contemporary Chinese art, architecture, urban design and visual culture, which will offer space for this critical dissent.
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The first thematic exhibition in 'Living in the Lowlands, the domestic scene in the collection of the NAI' is 'The Netherlands Builds in Brick'. This special display within the permanent exhibition comprises material that formed the first architectural exhibition at the neighboring Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in 1941.
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In close cooperation with the Amsterdam Local Authority, the Netherlands Architecture Institute and the Ymere housing corporation are launching the Ymere NAI idea competition 2009, ‘Open Fort 400’, on 1 June. The source of inspiration for this competition is the 400th anniversary of the relation between Amsterdam and New York. Open Fort 400 is an invitation by the three organisations to think about an open fort as an impulse for the social, cultural and economic development of the area from the ‘Kop van de Grasweg’ to the River IJ in North Amsterdam.
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