Stedelijk Museum, designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects, Amsterdam

Amsterdam's renovated and enlarged Stedelijk contemporary art museum - aka 'The Bathtub' - has just opened to the public in Museumplein after a near nine-year closure
(Image credit: John Lewis Marshall)

Stedelijk contemporary art museum reopened in Amsterdam this week after a major renovation and expansion, and a near nine-year closure. Dubbed 'the Bathtub' by locals, it seems ideally shaped to carry on the popular tradition of nicknaming extraordinary modern structures after ordinary household items.

Designed by Mels Crouwel of of Amsterdam architecture practice Benthem Crouwel, the sleek, 10,000sq m synthetic-fibre extension succeeds in accomplishing what architect AW Weissman's original Victorian-era red-brick building increasingly could not. It provides vaulted, spacious galleries, one of which is the largest in the Netherlands, and streamlines movement between them via a 'tube' of escalators that allows visitors to bypass the crowded administrative areas between exhibits.

The new structure incorporates a restaurant with a terrace and a sunken library. And it pivots the museum's foyer toward the green of the Museumplein - also home to the Van Gogh museum and Rijksmuseum - rather than to the noisy, tram-packed street.

Stedelijk's new glass foyer features the museum's latest purchase, Richard Serra's steel-plate 'Sight Point (for Leo Castelli)'.

The white tub, composed of a record 271 panels of Twaron aramid fibre and Tenax carbon fibre, is likely to become a new icon even in Amsterdam, a city in which contemporary monuments debut almost monthly. But it does nothing to obscure the original building, whose grand entry hall and statement staircase are still highlights of the Stedelijk experience. The traditional building will house the museum's permanent collection of 90,000 objects dating from the 1870s; new acquisitions include Marlene Dumas's controversial 'Osama' and Luc Tuymans's 'HM'.

Temporary exhibitions will launch in the new annex, starting this week with 'Beyond Imagination', a tribute to contemporary Dutch art featuring home-grown working artists.

Designed by Mels Crouwel

The sleek, 10,000sq m synthetic-fibre extension was designed by Mels Crouwel of Amsterdam architects Benthem Crouwel

(Image credit: Mels Crouwel, Benthem Crouwel)


The museum's entrance hall used to face the busy street. Crouwel pivoted it, so that it is now oriented toward the green Museumplein

(Image credit: Press)

Van Gogh museum

Museumplein is also home to the Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum

(Image credit: Press)

Designed by AW Weissman

The new wing, though iconic, does nothing to obscure the original building, which was designed by AW Weissman in 1895

(Image credit: AW Weissman)


The original building's grand central staircase is still a highlight

(Image credit: Press)

Building entrance

Crouwel has designed smooth transitions between the old and new spaces...

(Image credit: Press)


... including a pair of escalators that travel through a tube between exhibits, allowing visitors to avoid the crowded administrative areas

(Image credit: Press)

The escalators bypass the foyer

The escalators bypass the foyer, transporting visitors from the vast sunken gallery to the upper floors

(Image credit: Press)

restaurant and terrace

In the new space are a main-floor restaurant and terrace

(Image credit: Press)

New galleries

One of the new galleries is the largest in the Netherlands

(Image credit: Press)

Restaurant space

A 1956 mural by Karel Appel now covers the wall of the former restaurant space

(Image credit: Press)

The bathtub

The glass-walled entry hall is beneath what locals in Amsterdam are calling 'the bathtub'

(Image credit: Press)


Staircases in the new wing have no risers, to keep sightlines open

(Image credit: Press)


Outside, the stark contrast between the two wings, nearly 120 years apart, belies the easy transitions inside

(Image credit: Press)

Original galleries

The original galleries were whitewashed before the renovation, though all the heritage details were preserved

(Image credit: Press)


Museumplein 10