amsterdam: rijksmuseum reopening

© rijksmuseum / photography: iwan baan - a sexy and fresh rijksmuseum

architecturally scarred by a drastic renovation in the 1950s, badly insulated and last but not least, inadequate facilities for a growing number of visitors. that was amsterdam's rijksmuseum ten years ago. today, the building reopens to the public with the usual fanfare. it was designed and completed in 1885 by dutch architect pierre cuypers, and this new renovation by spanish architects cruz y ortiz has been equally radical. they've not only fixed all of the building's shortcomings but fully revived its neo-gothic lustre and opened up the building's two inner courtyards. these had been filled up with extra floors during the previous renovation to create additional exhibition space.

the project has had its share of delays, most notably the one instigated by the local cyclists union. indicating the silly flipside of dutch egalitarianism and its inexorable principle of equal participation, the organisation successfully protested against the architects' plan to close down a central passageway which had been used by pedestrians and cyclists for decades before the renovation and use it as the museum's entrance. being a pivotal element of the new renovation plan, this had now to go back to the drawing board. renowned paris-based architect jean-michel wilmotte signed for rijksmuseum's new interior design which subtly blends the 19th-century splendour with modern design across 80 different galleries.

another major change is the way the artworks are put on display. previously showcased in categories, the new presentation mixes the museum's treasures and is more of journey through dutch art and history from the middle ages and renaissance until the 20th century. the story of the netherlands has been set in an international context and is told chronologically across four separate floors. as a result paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, silver, porcelain, delftware, furniture, jewellery, arms, fashion and objects from dutch history will be presented together for the very first time. more than 30 galleries are dedicated to the dutch golden age, when the tiny trading nation pretty much dominated the planet in trade, science, military exploits and the arts.

the very heart of rijksmuseum will be the so-called gallery of honour, the spot where world-famous masterpieces by johannes vermeer, rembrandtfrans hals and jan steen are displayed side by side. the gallery leads up to a dedicated space where rembrandt's iconic masterpiece the nightwatch can be admired. new to the museum's presentation are the 20th century galleries on the top floor where a series of objects - including an airplane - elaborate on last century's dutch culture. to celebrate today's opening access to the museum is free until midnight. location: museumstraat 1 [amsterdam zuid].

© rijksmuseum / photography: pedro pegenaute + iwan baan - new entrance, courtyard entrance hall, main gallery, gallery of 20th century art [top to bottom]