Dedicated to the history, culture and biodiversity of the De Biesbosch wetlands in the Netherlands, architecture and nature exist in symbiosis at the recently renovated Biesbosch Museum
One of the largest national parks in the Netherlands, and one of the last expanses of freshwater tidal wetlands in northern Europe, De Biesbosch — which means 'forest of sedges' in Dutch — is an enchanting, flora and fauna rich natural site of rivers, wet grasslands, willow forests, creeks and islands. Located in the area of Werkendam in the southern part of the country, the area has a long history of harvesting and processing natural materials, making it a site of great ecological significance.
In 1994, long before terms like eco-friendly, sustainability and biodiversity became part of our everyday lexicon, it was here on one of the wetland islands that the Biesbosch Museum, a nature museum dedicated to the De Biesbosch's history and ecology, was built. The museum was so popular that as time passed, it became too small to accommodate the increasing number of visitors.
The exhibitions needed an overhaul, and a restaurant for visitors was urgently required.
Rotterdam architecture firm Studio Marco Vermeulen was called in to build an extension for the existing museum. The design included exhibition spaces, offices, a visitor centre, a restaurant and a museum garden. "The concept was to open the building up to the natural landscape, then cover the old and new parts with grass. It is the combination of nature and human intervention which shaped the design concept," says the Studio's founder, architect Marco Vermeulen.
To ensure minimal waste of materials and resources, the existing hexagonal structure of the museum's original pavilions was retained. Housed in this original volume are permanent exhibitions of
historical artefacts from the Biesbosch area, a library, multipurpose theatres, a gift shop, a revamped gallery space, reception and entrance areas.
A new 1,000 sq-m wing was added on the southwestern side of the old building. This wing, which opens to the museum garden, features extensive fenestrations, and within its walls is an organic restaurant with space for temporary exhibitions, that offers gorgeous views of the adjacent water and landscape. Also incorporated into this new wing are large dormers on the roof, where the offices for the Dutch Forest Commission and the Park Board can be found.
This is an excerpt from the “Forest of Sedges" article from the April 2016 issue of Perspective magazine.
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