Museums Expansion Dilemma

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Museums Expansion Dilemma
The pavilion-like expansion of Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum faces the city’s Museum Plaza

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Museums expansion dilemma
The pavilion-like expansion of Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum faces the city’s Museum Plaza

Museums across Canada are growing, and confronting the difficult choice between expanding on site and building new quarters off site. What can we learn from projects in the space-crunched Netherlands?

If the past is a foreign country, Canadian museum boards might do well to look both to the past and to foreign countries. I recently toured the work of Dutch architect Hans van Heeswijk, who is riding a wave of acclaim for museum expansions across the Netherlands, garnering the kind of attention that in North America is more typically reserved for new builds. Continental Europe has long been obliged to work this way, filling in rather than flailing out, as its buildable land pretty much ran out somewhere around the last colony-shucking.

Is there something to be gleaned from the Dutch experience? As Canadian cities reach a critical density and our museums outgrow their 1970s homes, museum boards and architects from coast to coast are facing tough choices between expanding on site or creating larger quarters farther afield. []

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