Sunday, May 27, 2007

Dantean Architecture in the Netherlands

Inside the building that tranquillity gives way to a comic-book version of Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” with strict divisions between various worlds. Visitors enter via an internal bridge that crosses over an underground atrium. From here, a vast hall conceived on the scale of a piazza leads to a cafeteria overlooking the calm surface of a reflecting pool. On one side of the hall looms the ziggurat form of the museum; on the other, a wall of glass-enclosed offices. Here the spectral glow of the interior of the cast-glass skin evokes the stained-glass windows of a medieval cathedral.

It’s a stunning space whose power lies in the contrast between the various architectural experiences within. Clad in cold gray slate, for instance, the underground atrium is a striking counterpoint to the heavenly glass walls above. Mr. Neutelings and Mr. Riedijk call the atrium their “inferno.” It also evokes a tomb: big, square openings are cut through the atrium’s walls, revealing a series of corridors painted a hellish red. The archives are tucked behind these corridors, where researchers and scholars, you suppose, toil away with the concentration of monks.

Neither fiery nor blissful, the offices are something closer to purgatory. Arranged in neat little rows, they open onto long, narrow corridors that overlook the bustling main hall. The office interiors are more contemplative, the colored cast-glass panels alternating with more conventional strip windows. The colored glass emits a soft glow that is strangely soothing. via the New York Times.

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