Architecturally speaking, to create a museum is to create ambients that will house a myriad of important hand-picked objects conveying ideas and concepts. It is no easy feat to balance functionality and form. In some cases, the precious objects must be shielded from harmful conditions—and incautious visitors as well. Therefore, some rooms might be closed off from natural light or even be purposely designed with unusual materials and colours. Such is the case of Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics, in the city of Leeuwarden, Netherlands.
If we consider that the main exhibition rooms build a narrative around the idea of nesting and protection, the entrance lobby conveys the opposite with amplitude and plenty of natural light coming from many directions. Such contrast is part of the work of architecture firm i29. Seizing a unique opportunity, the design team was part of the museum’s centenary grand renovation. It is a project full of intricacies and juxtapositions of ideas, from the fragile and careful promenade of the galleries housing precious ceramics, to the modern and minimalist identity of the welcoming areas.
The museum’s tearoom is a special section, not only for its social appeal but for the visual impact it offers its visitors. The colourful sections of the bar is arresting in its vibrancy but very much cohesive as an extension of the craftsmanship the museum houses within. The tearoom acts as an entrance but also as a conclusion of the visit, and so its programme is made to have several entrances. The horizontal alignment and level differences in these rooms are a subtle reference to layers of earth—the natural resource of ceramics.
Ceramic is a quintessential vessel for drinking tea, so it is no surprise to find it as the culinary choice to extend the experience of the museum. To focus our gaze to the tearoom as a minimalism exercise is to notice the impact of gentle architecture.