Opening of the National Automobile Museum by Michael Graves & Associates in the Netherlands

Michael Graves & Associates have just completed work on the Louwman Collection, the National Automobile Museum of the Netherlands. The project was designed by MGA Principal and Studio Head Gary Lapera, AIA.

“For an architect, museums are certainly some of the most rewarding commissions one can receive – they give you a chance to contribute to cultural history and to the public’s shared experience of that history,” said Michael. Graves, founding director. “We have been fortunate to have designed a variety of museums over the years.

“In designing this particular museum, we were greatly influenced by the character of the historical and physical context, and we strove to give this institution a presence with a unique sense of place,” added Gary Lapera.

The 185,000 square foot building contains temporary and permanent exhibition galleries, a reception hall, conference rooms, an auditorium, catering facilities, and car conservation and repair shops. A gift to the people of the Netherlands, the Louwman Collection is a public display of selections from collector Evert Louwman’s extraordinary collection of vintage automobiles. In addition, the National Automobile Museum of the Netherlands houses the largest collection of automotive art in the world.

The museum’s simple design vocabulary and massing complement its historic surroundings: located on a sensitive site near the Queen’s Palace in beautiful Den Haag. Pointed roofs and steeply sloping dormers, characteristic of traditional Dutch architecture, give the exterior of the building the visual appearance of a typical pre-modern carriage house, while breaking down the scale of the overall composition to be sympathetic to a neighboring residential area. The masonry of the facades, laid in a basket weave pattern interspersed with protruding bricks, creates a textural interest in the otherwise flat surfaces and is complemented by bluestone detailing and slate roofs. Inside, the Great Hall – a large barrel vaulted space – creates an east-west spine across the building, separating the double-height volume of the exhibition area from the smaller U-shaped public spaces. ladder that define the entrance courtyard.

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At the rear of the site, a small octagonal pavilion used as a special gallery is located along the axis of an existing avenue of trees in the Haagsche Bos park. A calm and contemplative space well suited to its site, the pavilion gracefully exerts a formal but tranquil presence in its serene setting.

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