Rietveld Pavilion reopens in the sculpture garden at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Holland
In 1955, Gerrit Rietveld (1884-1964) designed a pavilion for the display of small sculptures at the Third International Sculpture Exhibition in Arnhem’s Sonsbeek Park. This ‘Sonsbeek Pavilion’ was intended as a temporary structure, and it was dismantled when the exhibition was over. However, many people had been greatly impressed by its simplicity, and ten years later, on the initiative of several Dutch architects, the building found a permanent home in the Kröller-Müller Museum’s sculpture garden, under a new name: the ‘Rietveld Pavilion’. On 8 May 1965 the pavilion was officially inaugurated with an exhibition of sculptures by Barbara Hepworth.
From the very outset, the maintenance of the Rietveld Pavilion was a constant source of concern. The main questions were how to protect the minimalist structure (made of concrete, brick, steel, glass, wood and paint) against the ravages of time without compromising its delicate, temporary character, and how to preserve this more or less faithful replica of the Arnhem pavilion (which was originally intended to be temporary) for posterity.
Every conceivable method was considered and tried, from conservation and restoration to copying and replacing parts of the building, but it eventually became clear that the structure was beyond saving.
The 1965 pavilion has now been disassembled. Today, in 2010, the museum has rebuild the structure with new materials, while adhering as closely as possible to Gerrit Rietveld’s original design.
Wherever possible, parts of the 1965 pavilion that were still in adequate condition have been reused. Construction work began in January 2010 and finished in September of this year. The new, third version of the pavilion now stands in the museum’s sculpture garden, preserving Rietveld’s world-famous design for the future.
In appearance, the new structure is unquestionably the familiar and widely acclaimed Rietveld Pavilion. There are a few minor departures, barely visible to the naked eye, from the original choice of materials, so that the building requires less maintenance and is durable enough to hold up well for a few decades. The pavilion is the property of the Government Buildings Agency (GBA) of the State of the Netherlands, which, as its owner, is responsible for its maintenance. The GBA was also overseeing the restoration project on behalf of the Kröller-Müller Museum.
The Rietveld Pavilion has been designated for preservation as a listed building, part of the country’s cultural heritage. For the purpose of the national Buildings Decree it qualifies as a built structure. In the context of the Kröller-Müller Museum and the sculpture garden in which it is located, the building can also be seen as a sculpture, a model for thinking about space.
W.M. Crouwel, who was Chief Government Architect when the project began, decided in collaboration with the Kröller-Müller Museum to take a thorough, meticulous approach to replacing the previous pavilion. The GBA coordinated an extensive programme of research in the fields of architecture, building techniques, building history, materials science, and construction, culminating in the report ‘The Rietveld Pavilion: a summary of eight research studies and a restoration plan’. This report, intended mainly for internal use served as the basis for the project. The costs were shared by the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning, and the Environment and the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science.
To coincide with the opening of the reconstructed pavilion, a small presentation is on display in the museum’s old wing, with archive material on the pavilion and several pieces of furniture made by Rietveld from the museum’s collection. The current State Architect Liesbeth van der Pol B Sc commissioned a documentary to be made on the realization of this version of the Rietveld Pavilion. This documentary by Pieter Kiewiet de Jonge, entitled ‘According to Rietveld - the reconstruction of the Rietveld Pavilion’, is ca. 40 minutes long and is also showing in the museum.
Information about the project is also available (in Dutch only) at www.vrom.nl/rijksgebouwendienst (select ‘Projecten’ and then ‘Rietveld-paviljoen’). If you have any questions, please call the GBA information line: 0800 – 8991103 (in the Netherlands).
Note: the exhibition Rietvelds Universum is on display from 21 October 2010 in the Centraal Museum in Utrecht.
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