Boijmans

16 January 2020 – As an ex-Rotterdammer I follow the reconstruction plans of the Boijmans museum. This week, the Rotterdam architecture center AIR published a video of my lecture about the building in Arminius church. My monthly Timmermansoog for Architectenweb is on the same topic.

Boijmans is one of the most beautiful buildings I know. There, I discovered the work of Donald Judd (1993). Walter de Maria’s installation in the Bodon Hall (1984) is etched in my memory. Some of my colleagues are concerned about the plans for reconstruction and possible demolition, for instance my friend prof. Paul Vermeulen in his letter to the editor of NRC Handelsblad. No tabula rasa for the museum, he claims, and rightly so. The diverse extensions of the museum do matter as well. And this is no era to decide for demolition lightly. Meanwhile I try to understand why I am so committed to the old Boijmans.

When I curated the debate series ArchitectuurCases for the Rotterdam architecture centre AIR, together with colleagues from the city, I studied the Rotterdam brick tradition of the inter-war period. This is not well known. The 1940 bombing has added to that. The 1936 establishement of the Boijmans building was the culmination of that tradition. Its designer Ad van der Steur played a major role in the comfortable brick city Rotterdam was building at.

Following the unrest regarding the reconstruction, the very same AIR organized a debate under the name ‘Looking at Boijmans’ (10 December 2019). AIR invited me to tell about Van der Steur’s original Boijmans. I opted for the angle of the practising architect, which differs from the perspective of a historian, building technician or heritage worker. Van der Steur seems to have experimented with the double court type which became in vogue in the Italian renaissance in the design of urban domestic buildings, palazzi. In any case, a representative square court has been combined with a far less perfect expedition court. I am arguing that many of the alleged shortcomings can be traced back to the way Van der Steur went about with the double court type.

Click here for a video of my talk for AIR.

Click here for today’s column on Architectenweb.