Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rotterdam: NAI - the Netherlands Architecture Institute

This was one of the best moments in the Netherlands trip: the visit to NAI. The National Architecture Institute has one of the largest architecture collections in the world; eighteen kilometres of shelves containing drawings, sketches, models, photographs, books, journals and other materials.
The NAI is entrusted with the safekeeping and management of these archives and collections and with making them accessible to the public. Virtually every prominent Dutch architect since 1800 is represented in the archives, which include the personal archives of such famous architects as Dudok, Cuypers, Berlage and De Klerk.
The NAI's library is open to the public and contains over 35,000 books on architecture and related disciplines, plus an extensive range of Dutch and international architectural journals.
Researchers, students, and anyone else interested may consult publications and archives in the reading room.

The NAI moved into its current premises in 1993. The striking building is situated at the edge of the Museumpark in the center of Rotterdam and was designed by Jo Coenen. As you approach the building from the outside, you are at first impressed by the water surrounding the building - of course such an establishment could not have a building on a simple dry patch of land in Holland!
You enter by passing a bridge over the water expanse. On one side you see an abstract sculpture in the water:

I felt that the building was gently embracing me inside it when entering. The interior is as unusual as the exterior - lots of intense color, modern design and friendly personnel. All this makes for a lovely, unforgettable experience!
This is the entrance area viewed from the balcony above it:

The areas of the temporary exhibitions were closed due to the process of the installation of the next show, which made it impossible for me to visit them. I did not have the time to do that anyway, so I only had the chance to see the permanent exhibition and the museum store-so many books!
This is the corridor towards the permanent exhibitions:

And this is the room with the projection screens:

The building generated lots of reactions when it was finished (18 months late from schedule). There was criticism of the design and the final outcome regarding the original plans, some even said the Brutalist style construction reminded them of a garage. The architect though had to endure a constant war from the client (the Dutch state) regarding the budget: there were many cuts. I myself loved the building and think it serves its purpose very well and looks as it should: modern, light and easy to navigate. It also is very welcoming to the visitor, which for me is a huge advantage.
What you see on the bottom photograph on the right hand side is the archive wing.

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