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Michael Graves & Associates, architects of more than 350 major buildings around the world, have just finished work on The Louwman Collection, the National Automobile Museum of the Netherlands. The project was designed by MGA Principal and Studio Head Gary Lapera, AIA.

Speaking of the firm’s interest in museum design, Founding Principal Michael Graves remarks, “For an architect, museums are certainly among the most gratifying commissions one can receive—they give you a chance to contribute to cultural history and to the public’s shared experience of that history. We’ve been fortunate to have designed a variety of museums over the years.” Says Gary Lapera, “In designing this particular museum, we were greatly influenced by the character of the historical and physical context, and endeavored to give this institution a presence with a unique sense of place.”

The 185,000-square-foot building contains temporary and permanent exhibition galleries, a reception hall, conference facilities, an auditorium, food service facilities, and workshops for conservation and repair of cars. A gift to the people of the Netherlands, the Louwman Collection is a public showcase of selections from collector Evert Louwman’s extraordinary vintage automobile collection. In addition, the National Automobile Museum of the Netherlands is home to the world’s largest collection of automotive art.

The museum’s simple design vocabulary and massing compliment its historic surroundings: located on a sensitive site near the Queen’s Palace in beautiful Den Haag. Steeply sloped peaked roofs and dormers, characteristic of traditional Dutch architecture, give the building’s exterior the visual aspect of a typical pre-modern carriage house, while breaking down the scale of the overall composition to be sympathetic to a nearby residential district. The brickwork of the facades, laid in a basket-weave pattern interspersed with projecting bricks, creates textural interest within the otherwise planar surfaces, and is complemented by bluestone detailing and slate roofs. Inside, the Great Hall—a large barrel-vaulted space—creates an east-west spine through the building, separating the double-height volume of the exhibit area from the lower-scaled U-shaped public spaces that define the entry court.

To the rear of the site, a small octagonal pavilion used as a special gallery is located along the axis of an existing allée of trees in Haagsche Bos park. A quiet, contemplative space well suited to its site, the pavilion gracefully exerts a formal but tranquil presence on its serene setting.


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