In a city where architecture is king, there is a new kid on the block. Opening this week is the incredible Depot, the new storage facility for, and adjacent to, the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam. Eight years in the planning and four years in the building, this soon-to-be iconic structure is unique both in its appearance and its function.
It resembles a huge, bowl covered in mirrors and with a garden on top. The ever changing kaleidoscope on its walls reflects the city in all its moods – it’s certainly worth a visit just to look at the outside.
But inside it is also unique. As we all know, up to ninety percent of the stock of any museum is always hidden away in storerooms, inaccessible to the public. The uniqueness of The Depot is that it is open to the public. For twenty Euros you can buy a ticket and have access to all of the Museum’s hidden treasures arranged in racks or on shelves in myriad temperature and humidity controlled rooms.
The Depot is the brainchild of Boijmans director Sjarel Ex and Rotterdam architect Winy Maas of MVRDV who will no doubt be the recipients of many prizes and awards in the next couple of years – and the numbers are staggering.
The thirty-five meter building is covered with 1664 mirrors. The roof garden contains seventy-five Betula Pubescens, a soft silver birch tree that grows up to ten meters high and is resistant to the weather conditions on the roof. Inside are 151,000 works of art, all cossetted and pampered in their ideal environment, plus a restaurant and various other spaces.
All the rooms are off the central core which houses the stairs and lifts to the six floors. This area feels like a living Escher print or even a Piranesi drawing. Every aspect if the structure is breathtaking. But breath is also an issue.
Each room is controlled for humidity and consequently can only have people in it for fifteen minutes as their breath and the heat from their bodies will tip the balance.
Even if you are not an art fan the roof garden will be open, and available separately, so anybody can take the dedicated lift to the top for views over the city.
The Depot will be opened officially on 6th November by King Willem-Alexander and, if not destined to become one of the wonders of the modern world, it will certainly be the star attraction for visitors and residents of Rotterdam for years to come. Michael Hasted 4th November 2021
Photo by and © Michael Hasted