A museum extension along a of a historic village. Diederendirrix based Museum Vincentre’s extension in Nuenen on the local context: the layered design contains ample references to the life and work of ‘peasant painter’ Vincent van Gogh during his time in Brabant.
In 1883, the then thirty-year-old Vincent van Gogh returned to his hometown of Nuenen to live with his parents at the vicarage on de Berg. Honing his skills as a great artist, Van Gogh was inspired by local village life – by the farmers, weavers, and workers. A quarter of his works were painted here, including The Potato Eaters. Museum Vincentre takes us through this particularly important chapter in his life; the story of his time in Brabant is told at the listed town hall (Raadhuis aan de Berg). However, the old town hall became too small for the exhibit, and the museum was due for a renewal. After a thorough exploration of the artist’s life and work, diederendirrix designed an extension that reflects the colourful stories of, and about, Van Gogh.
The Dutch ‘Langskap’ farm
As a carefully researched, contemporary interpretation of history, the design of the new Vincentre Museum aims to reflect the style of the painter and the village.
For instance, there were once two small farms on the empty space next to the current museum building. The new building now follows that historic parcellation, referencing the Dutch ‘Langskap’ farms of yesteryear. A new version of the original partial doors shape the entrance with an elegant arch, opening the building onto the village, and point the entrance towards the vicarage where Van Gogh’s parents lived – as well as the house next door, home to the artist’s forbidden lover.
The painter’s struggle between stature and simplicity is visible in the ensemble and embodied by a quirky modern variation on a traditional barn next to the town hall. The transition from old to new is highlighted by a narrower connection between the two spaces, with a transparent glass corridor at the top. At the front, the new building’s expressive roof remains secondary to the monument next door. The façade and roof become one seamless whole with a cladding of brown fired clay tiles – a reference to Van Gogh’s penchant for earthy materials and tones.
Inside, visitors are taken aback by a rather different museum setting. There are no sleek, white, ‘international’ galleries here; instead, visitors find themselves in an intimate, integrally designed interior with earthy tones, local poplar wood, and power floated concrete floors. The cinema, café, and offices are all located on the ground floor. With its first floor landing, the atrium provides beautiful sightlines from the inside looking out and vice versa. This landing not only leads to the other building, but also to a hall with changing exhibitions and a high-tech Light lab that is being created in partnership with ASML, one of the biggest companies in the Brainport region. Here, visitors can play with light just as Van Gogh did in his paintings.
The garden is another of this museum’s highlights and is an absolute must-see. Art and nature were inextricably linked for Van Gogh, who was enchanted by the garden behind the vicarage. Despite the limited space around Vincentre, a unique back garden was created in collaboration with Meeuwsen Muldoon’s landscape architects. The outdoor space will become a multilayered park, functioning as a décor with a background and foreground. A back wall of greenery, jagged branches, floral accents, bright colours, and a reflective pond inspire and appeal to the imagination. Or as Van Gogh said: ‘There’s definitely a painting in that spot.’