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Wieki Somers designs for the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen

Only five years after a new extension, Rotterdam’s Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, originally designed by Alexander Bodon, has once again been revamped at a cost of 4.2 million Euros.  Last Saturday the new foyer opened to the public and 2,500 people attended.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 02-10-2008

A museum for the people

Sjarel Ex, director of the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum has said that the museum’s foyer was severe, complicated and unwelcoming.  This week a complete metamorphosis, designed by occasional collective Haunting Dogs Full of Grace, opened to the public.  What was a partitioned and awkward ground level has morphed into a hip and open public space complete with an espresso bar, soccer square, print gallery and education area for children.  

Not only is the foyer now a more hospitable and welcoming public space, but it also provides a safer environment to store and exhibit the museum’s 80,000 strong print collection, which was until now mostly stored underground.  

The centerpiece and highlight of the revamp is Wieki Somers’ Merry-Go-Round cloakroom coat rack.

Somers first attracted the attention of Boijmans van Beuningen Museum curator, Annemartine van Kesteren during the Salone del Mobile ’05 in Milan. There, her inside-out boat bath was part of the Haunting Dogs Full of Grace exhibition. She turned a boat inside-out to create a bath where a weary user’s mind filled with shiploads of information could drift away.  The piece is now part of the museum's collection.

“Van Kesteren was interested in having an exhibition with us,” Somers says.  “But we preferred to do something more permanent that visitors could actually use, which is where the ideas for redefining the whole entrance came from.”

Somers’ carousel coat rack is a red and white fairground carousel.  Instead of horses, however, the ropes and pulleys hold visitors’ coats.

It’s an ingenious idea Somers came across when watching the Jiska Rickels film, 4 Elements.  “I was captivated by the mine workers,” she says.  “The way their coats had to be hoisted back up because the space was so limited.”

The carousel is made from red and white ropes patterned in-house at Studio Wieki Somers. Plastic pulley blocks, fire hoses, and metal weights were used to make the mechanism, which is simple to use – just pull on the rope, hang the coat and fasten the lock.  The metal weights ensure that the hoisting up and down works automatically.

Haunting Dogs Full of Grace is an occasional design collective comprising Wieki Somers, Jurgen Bey, Ted Noten, Simon Heijdens, Frank Bruggeman, and Bertjan Pot.  

“We are like a band of individual musicians that sometimes come together to make music,” Somers explains.  “Even when we show together, our work is very individual and different.  The pieces never bite each other. I think it's special to be able to build something together as individual designers, but even more than that, it’s the meetings we have together that really produce ideas and energy in a natural way.  That’s the most invigorating part.”

The new foyer of the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum is open free of charge to the public. Everyone is encouraged to use the facilities to meet, drink coffee or work at their leisure.

Images: Merry-go-round cloakroom, design by Studio Wieki Somers (Dylan ven den Berg and Wieki Somers)

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